Cariboo Friendship Society case manager Shane Boxeur, special programs supervisor, Tamara Garreau, shelter co-ordinator, Dustin Westerman, and security co-ordinator, Grahame Lees, have seen an increase in the number of people accessing the shelter as winter unfolds in the Williams Lake area. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Editorial: Cold weather increases numbers at Cariboo Friendship Centre shelter

We need proactive work to continue to be funded to address deep and complex issues in the community

With temperatures dipping down due to a cold front hovering over Williams Lake, the Cariboo Friendship Society (CFS) shelter is busy.

Read more: Environment Canada issues alert for ‘cold and blustery weather’ this week

While most of us are bundling up and turning up the heat in our homes, there are many people in our community without a permanent home to sleep safely at night or even cook a decent meal.

On Tuesday night the Cariboo Friendship Society shelter housed 28 guests and on Wednesday, 26 stayed there.

“Our capacity is 30 beds,” said Tamara Garreau, special programs supervisor with CFS. “Our outreach worker and case manager have been driving around to see if there are people needing to come out of the cold.”

There are people choosing not to come to the shelter because they are heavy into addictions and they cannot use substances on the property, Garreau said, noting couples also cannot stay together unless a family unit is available so that can be a deterring factor as well.

In Williams Lake presently there is nowhere else people can go seeking emergency shelter.

Shelter co-ordinator Dustin Westerman said there are people still camping outside in our community and it worries him.

Community members have been donating toques and mitts, and aside from those items, scarves and coats are appreciated.

“We received more than 60 pairs of socks that we handed out,” said case manager Shane Boxeur.

Normally people leave the shelter during the day so staff can clean the rooms, but when it’s very cold, no one will be sent outside, Garreau confirmed.

On Wednesday, when news of the death of Dorian Johnny, 31, surfaced, those who frequent Boitanio Park were saddened by the tragedy.

Read More: Family of Dorian Johnny holds vigil in Boitanio Park Wednesday

Though the cause of his death is not yet known, Johnny was found in the park when temperatures were -13C.

It was heartbreaking to know that another human being in need was laying alone, outside in the cold, in our small community.

Some of those at the park that morning told us they didn’t have a place to live. One said he spent the cold night on the floor inside one of the bank’s foyers. Others stayed at the Cariboo Friendship Centre, they said, while visiting from rural communities.

Poverty, trauma, addictions, mental illness and a lack of affordable housing are extreme challenges in our community.

We need proactive work in the community to continue to be funded to address these deep and complex issues, and the many problems that go along with them, such as crime, abuse, and, sadly, even death.

We thank the outreach workers and emergency responders for their ongoing efforts to help the most vulnerable people in our communities.

­- Williams Lake Tribune



news@wltribune.com

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