A warming shelter is now set up in Boitanio Park and ready for anyone needing to get in from the cold.
The shelter, which is located near the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, has been tarped in on three sides by city staff. Portable heaters warm the area where there are several permanent picnic tables widely spaced out under the roof. A porta-potty has also been placed nearby at a cost of $50 per day for rental and cleaning.
Gary Muraca, director of municipal services, said setting up a warm place where street people can go is an ‘absolutely necessary’ thing to do as those without homes have no where to go due to building closures as a result of COVID-19.
Typical places where people would go, such as the arena and library, are closed the public and the daytime temperatures are cold and windy in Williams Lake. There is also no access to public washrooms anywhere in the city.
The Salvation Army, which usually serves breakfast and lunch in their building to dozens of people in need every day in Williams Lake, have been forced to cancel their breakfast program and only deliver their lunch program from their emergency services truck, rather than inside their building.
“I really do think it’s the humane thing to do,” said Muraca of providing the temporary day shelter.
The City has been criticized on social media for not promoting social distancing by putting up the shelter, since the Tribune wrote the first story Wednesday.
Muraca said one side of the shelter is open so that City bylaw officers and RCMP can ensure social distancing is occurring, and the shelter will be removed if those using the shelter can’t adhere to those directives.
“It will come done just as fast as it came up” if people are misbehaving, he said,
“We’re not trying to make everbody sick. We’re trying to keep them from getting sick out in the cold.”