White Rock First United Church (File photo)

White Rock First United Church (File photo)

White Rock extreme-weather shelter opens tonight

Organizers in the process of finalizing temporary location for shelter

As a blanket of snow coated the Semiahmoo Peninsula Friday morning, officials at Peninsula United and Options Community Services announced it will open White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter this evening and it will likely stay open until next week.

The shelter, which opens during extreme-weather events or when the temperatures drop below 0C, is located inside White Rock First United Church (15385 Semiahmoo Ave.). It is to operate out of the church facility until the end of this year once redevelopment begins – expected in January 2018 – of the First United property.

Kathy Booth, of Peninsula United, said Options is in the process of finalizing a new temporary location for the shelter once demolition of the church begins.

The new site – pending some finalization and insurance paperwork – is located at Star Of The Sea Centre (15262 Pacific Ave.).

The First United Church property is to be redeveloped into a memory-care facility, a church, and according to Booth, will “absolutely” have space for an extreme-weather shelter once it’s complete in perhaps two years.

Discussions around the redevelopment project were spurred by concerns with the church’s long-term financial sustainability several years ago. One of the original plans – brought to light in 2013 – was the possibility of affordable housing.

Last December, church officials told Peace Arch News the affordable housing component had been taken off the table, saying the decision was that of the developer.

The extreme-weather shelter has been operating out of the church every winter season since 2009.

Peninsula United, which is an amalgamation of First United, Crescent United and Sunnyside United Church, and Options have more than 50 volunteers prepared for the winter season.

“We’re ready to go,” Booth said to PH2H Friday.

When the extreme-weather shelter moves to Star Of The Sea Centre, it will contiune to be a Peninsula United Church program in partnership with Options Community Services.

Last year the extreme-weather shelter serviced a record number of homeless people. Some evenings, the shelter housed up to 20 people, even though the capacity of the shelter is 15.