The picnic shelter in Boitanio Park is going to be tarped and heated as a temporary place for vulnerable people to warm up during the day as cold temperatures persist during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake to create daytime heated shelter for vulnerable during COVID-19

As of Thursday, April 2, Boitanio Park shelter will be tarped, heated until temperatures warm up

A temporary day-time shelter will be set up in Williams Lake’s main downtown park for vulnerable people due to COVID-19 precautions forcing other facilities to close.

“One of the things overlooked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is where the vulnerable population in Williams Lake can warm up during the day, especially during colder temperatures,” said Gary Muraca, director of municipal services Wednesday.

At night, most people have places to stay, but during the day, they cannot go into the library, the Salvation Army drop-in or the Cariboo Memorial Complex to warm up because of the pandemic, Muraca told the Tribune.

During a conference call where staff discussed possible solutions Wednesday, it was decided to tarp in the picnic shelter at Boitanio Park and provide heating.

“This will be operational during the daytime hours when other facilities are closed. We will also have portable sanitation facilities available,” he said.

The makeshift shelter will be operational first thing Thursday morning until temperatures in the lakecity begin to warm up.

Read more: Homeless count taking place March 10 in Williams Lake

Muraca confirmed bylaw staff and RCMP officers will be patrolling the area to ensure social distancing and respectful behaviour is being adhered to.

For over a week now, the Salvation Army has been serving lunch from its emergency disaster unit out front of its building, but has had to cancel its breakfast program due to the pandemic.

With the help of volunteers, the Salvation Army has been delivering food hampers to people’s homes.

Earlier this week, Cariboo Bethel Church pastor Jeremy Vogt told the Tribune his church housed some homeless people last Friday evening in Williams Lake.

“I got a call from Fire Chief Erick Peterson asking if I could help because there were people staying in a tent in town,” Vogt said, noting volunteers set up cots in one of the side rooms inside the church, cooked dinner and breakfast for half a dozen people.

The Tribune has also heard that people travelling into town for groceries and appointments, are having a difficult time finding a public washroom to use.

Muraca said at this point the City cannot re-open a public washroom in any of the parks, as the water would freeze and the pipes would burst because the buildings are not heated. Anyone can use the shelter at the park and the portable potties, he added.

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