Volunteer Kees Foster provides support for homeless visitors at White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter. (File photo)

‘Little gestures’ aim to brighten spirits at White Rock extreme-weather shelter

Inclement weather drawing up to 15 to Pacific Avenue hall nightly

Christmas cards with messages handwritten by some of Peninsula United Church’s youngest members are among “little gestures” hoped to brighten the spirits of guests who hunker down at White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter this holiday season.

“We’ve talked about how hard it is (to be without shelter) and then we’ve brainstormed” about the kind of messages people who find themselves in such situations would appreciate, shelter co-ordinator Joan McMurtry said Friday.

The results, she added, have been “very touching.”

“One little child said, ‘I want you to know that you are loved.’”

As with all of the kindnesses at the shelter, the cards will be offered, but not imposed, McMurtry said.

The shelter operates out of Star of the Sea Hall, at 15262 Pacific Ave. So far this season – as of Friday (Dec. 20) – the call to open its doors to those in need of a warm, dry place to stay the night has been issued approximately 20 times.

READ MORE: White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter open ‘until further notice’

McMurtry said anywhere from 11 to 15 guests have taken up the offer on most nights, with some of them familiar faces to the volunteers who make helping out at the shelter a part of their own routine.

Just eight people sought a warm bed on Thursday, however. The number was a surprise, said McMurtry, given the day’s “horrendous” rainfall.

With inclement weather forecast to continue, McMurtry expects the shelter to remain open through the holidays, including Dec. 24-25.

While cookies are also among the goodies to be offered for Christmas, she said the aim is to acknowledge the holidays in “a low-key, sensitive way.”

“For some of the (the guests), it’s a pretty tough time,” she said. “We don’t want to do anything that kind of triggers (difficult) memories.”

She said community support for the shelter enables offerings such as a hot breakfast. Other recent examples have included a $250 donation from a group of employees; weekly donations of baked goods from Peninsula Retirement residence; and a “tremendous discount” on groceries from Save-on-Foods.

The shelter is open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

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