Shelter program still growing

By on February 1, 2008

Louise Peters, rector of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Kamloops, B.C., and Le Roy Wells of the St. Vincent de Paul Society work together to provide food and shelter in a joint Out of the Cold program.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Kamloops, B.C., have banded together to provide shelter for homeless friends and neighbours at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in the city’s downtown core.

Last winter, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society ran a successful Out of the Cold program. But the facility was so over-taxed that the society was forced to find another location, and was led to St. Paul’s basement.

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“We stepped up because it was brought to us, it was a need – we have the space and the cathedral committee and the community feels that this is a ministry we’d like to partner with,” said Louise Peters, dean of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (formerly the diocese of Cariboo) and rector of the cathedral.

In this ecumenical ministry, the Anglican cathedral provides the space, some of the volunteers and some of the meals, while the St. Vincent de Paul Society manages overall delivery of the Out of the Cold program and handles all arrangements for feeding, housing and caring for the homeless. The program volunteers include a retired street nurse, who is the cathedral’s liaison person. Donors and supporters come from both faith communities.

Doors open each Wednesday night from November through March and on other nights when temperatures fall below -10 C.

“We’ve got to find some more volunteers,” said Le Roy Wells of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. “It takes 18 people – from set-up before opening to tear-down and clean up in the morning – to operate at this site.” The program needs people who can come from midnight to six or seven the next morning.

This year’s program started on Nov. 21, serving five people. The next session saw 23 staying overnight and by Nov. 28 attendance reached 35, the capacity of the building. About 50 per cent of the neighbours being served are under 30, and about 20 per cent of them are women.

“It gets pretty snug,” said Mr. Wells. One night last November, four people had to do without mattresses. “People ring the door bell, we greet them and show them their bed. We feed them a supper and most of them are into bed pretty early.”

He added: “This parish [St. Paul’s] is so busy that we’re required to be out by 8 a.m. the following morning and it’s a bit difficult getting everybody served breakfast, getting them out and getting the place clean.”

Each morning, beds are disinfected before they are put away; sheets, blankets and pillow cases are washed every day.

“Cleanliness is very important because the cathedral basement is also used for daycare and Sunday school,” he said. “It’s essential to protect both our friends and our landlord, who’s given us the gift of this space.”

The immediate success of this year’s Out of the Cold program has created another challenge. “We need another spot,” said Mr. Wells. “We’re maxed out.”

Chuck Bishop writes for the Roman Catholic newspaper Kamloops Diocesan News.

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