Limited space due to COVID-19 social distancing has fortunately not been a major concern so far this winter for Delta’s Emergency Weather Shelter (EWS).
Located at Ladner United Church on 48th Avenue, the shelter recently completed a 34-night consecutive run that saw on three occasions clients turned away due to no space. The pandemic has reduced the shelter’s capacity from nine beds to five.
“My biggest fear this winter is that we were going to be turning people away,” said shelter coordinator Shirley Baker, who is in her fourth season in charge of the shelter operation. “So far there have been three nights where we have had to turn one away. But one night we had turn away five and that was like a hit to the gut for me.”
Working around COVID-19 has been a challenge for Baker’s staff and volunteers. Everything has to be considered and adjusted accordingly.
“You have to make sure that not only the people coming inside are safe, but also the night staff that oversees the shelter and any of the volunteers who come in too,” continued Baker. “We have high tech cleaning protocols and we have to be careful on the types of food that we can serve. We don’t have access to the kitchen because our church is closed. You just try to be adaptable and find other snacks that you can bring in.”
The shelter’s effort during these difficult times is certainly recognized. The program is run through a partnership with the City of Delta, Options Community Services, Delta police, Delta fire, Deltassist and others.
Options Community Services deactivated the shelter on Monday following the consecutive day run, re-opened it Wednesday before closing it again as of Thursday.
“Thanks to amazing commitment and kindness of LUC volunteers and other community partners, Delta’s EWS has been open for 34 consecutive days. Hopefully, these amazing folks will be able to take a bit of a breath and have some rest in the next a couple of days. It is truly inspiriting to see this level of commitment and passion for serving vulnerable residents in Delta,” said City of Delta Social Planner Olga Shcherbyna.
Baker added that the community deserves plenty of credit for its support too. The pandemic resulted in the shelter staying opening for an additional six months as an emergency response shelter which required more donations and volunteer help. Among them were youth members of the church.
“It has just been amazing to see the extra generosity especially when money is tight for everybody,” added Baker. “COVID has hit our homeless so much more. When they leave here in the morning, they can’t hang out in the library, rec. centre or a McDonalds. It is so limited and the resources are not out there right now either. Things have closed down so much.
“It’s been a long and tough haul and we tried to make it little brighter for them at Christmas time by putting together Christmas packages. A couple of kids also made up care packages I put up Christmas decorations around the room.”