December a busy month for extreme weather shelter

The extreme weather shelter at the Gateway of Hope is the busiest it has ever been

With the recent cold snap stretching for more than a week, the extreme weather shelter at the Gateway of Hope was the busiest it has ever been.

“It’s the highest numbers we have seen in here,” said Les McAusland, manager of Langley’s extreme weather shelter program.

“So far, in eight days, we have had 156 people access the shelter since we opened it on Dec. 2.”

To put that into perspective, a total of 255 accessed extreme weather beds since the beginning of 2012.

There are 30 mats available if that many are needed, but filling them all would make for very cramped quarters, he said. On average, they sheltered around 20 people each night.

“We haven’t even touched into most of December yet,” said McAusland on Dec. 11.

The extreme weather shelter alert was called off on Dec. 12, but was re-issued on Dec. 18 as temperatures were forecast to drop below zero once again.

McAusland said the demand and busyness has been taking its toll on staff, and he is a bit worried about how they will staff the shelter throughout Christmas.

Staff have always run the shelter but they may have to look at asking volunteers to help out if more Arctic fronts are on the way.

McAusland is thanking the community for its continued generosity.

People and groups are coming in every day to donate coats, socks, blankets and clothes.

“It’s so appreciated,” he said.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate’s coat drive was also well appreciated and all the items have already been given to those in need, he said.

Meanwhile, two youths have used the shelter for teens set up in Aldergrove, said  Loren Roberts, senior program manager at Aldergrove Neighbourhood Service.

On top of that, five youth have been placed in shelters outside of Langley, because there is no centre for them in Langley.

Those teens will remain in the shelters, longer term.

If beds had not been available, they would have been able to use the overnight shelter, Roberts said.