The first official Extreme Weather Alert was issued for Langley on Wednesday night, due to the excessive amount of rain that has fallen this week.
More than 50mm was expected to fall in a 24-hour period. The Gateway of Hope was gearing up on Wednesday afternoon, expecting an additional 10 to 15 people looking to escape the elements. That’s on top of 62 shelter spots already being used.
“We could top 100 people in this building tonight,” said Cameron Eggie, Gateway of Hope’s residential services manager. “We’ve been 100 per cent full most days in October, minus a few days where we were at 96 to 98 per cent full.”
But the shelter will not turn anyone away during this Extreme Weather Alert, he stressed.
“We will make room,” he said.
During the provincially-directed extreme weather alerts, emails go out to around 150 Langley businesses and public spaces, like libraries and community centres, so they can share the information with individuals in need and put up posters.
The posters indicate that people in need of shelter can call Langley RCMP, who will help get them to the Gateway of Hope.
Eggie said Langley Vineyard holds a Wednesday morning breakfast and clothing collection for the homeless.
Their staff will notify everyone of the extra mats. Outreach workers were going out to areas where flooding could occur and individuals are known to camp.
Eggie said they go through a lot of resources when they are this busy at the shelter.
“Individuals will come in soaking wet from head to toe, so we do a lot of laundry. We also give them fresh socks and underwear, both of which we are in short supply of.”
Often, people will come to the shelter in clothing that is in such disrepair it has to be thrown out.
Last month, Langley City brokered a deal with the province to open an additional 30 mats, in an effort to shelter people living at the large homeless camp on the Nicomekl floodplain at 208 Street. That area is subject to flooding. The camp was evacuated on Oct. 15 when a large windstorm came through, said Eggie. Shelter staff have identified 20 people who came from the 208 Street camp.
Several new, smaller camps have since popped up around Langley.
Eggie has worked at the Gateway of Hope since 2011 and has watched the growth of poverty and homelessness in Langley.
“The level of need is greater than ever before,” he said. They are looking to the upcoming Metro Vancouver homeless count on March 8, 2017 to learn how many more people are counted as homeless in Langley compared to the last count in 2014. At that time, volunteers said there was a decrease, when they located 92 people who were homeless in Langley and Aldergrove. Many outreach services, said that figure didn’t reflect the true number of homeless.
In the meantime, they are asking for donations of socks and underwear for both men and women as well as razors. There is also an opportunity to volunteer with the Emergency Alert nights, by folding blankets, putting out mats, etc.
For more information call Gateway of Hope at 604-514-7375.