The scoop on Castlegar's homeless shelter
A recent Facebook post requesting sleeping bags for the Castlegar homeless shelter got a massive response from readers who were unaware the city had a shelter at all.
Community Harvest Food Bank president Deb McIntosh said the shelter has actually been operational for more than a decade now, and explained it doesn’t get much publicity because it operates out of a local for-profit business.
“We don’t want people just showing up there – there’s a process,” she said. “And when it comes to donations, we ask for what we need. Otherwise, we’d be overwhelmed by people donating clothing, household goods, and that kind of thing.
“We have three thrift stores in town who are incredibly generous with us – we don’t want to compete with them.”
Of course, they are always delighted to accept monetary donations.
The shelter capacity is a maximum of five, but three is optimal and four is manageable, she said, adding they probably help between 35 and 50 people a year.
“There are government agencies that deal with women fleeing domestic abuse, and others that are there to help youth, so it’s mostly men,” she said. “This should be a government social services issue, not a community issue – we do sometimes have to turn people away.”
She underscored the fact that this is not funded or operated in any way by the City of Castlegar or Castlegar tax dollars, despite her other role as city councillor.
McIntosh said a lot of her referrals come from other agencies that have already gone through an assessment process, but she also has a process to determine whether a candidate is accepted.
“It’s not a place to come and flop for the night – we have expectations of the people who stay here,” she said. “I have questions I ask, and I go off my gut, quite frankly.”
Factors that might lead to refusal of services (assuming there’s room available) would include intoxication or illicit drug use.
The average stay lasts about a month – residents are expected to look for their own accommodation – with the longest stay lasting three months due to exceptional circumstances.
The shelter is a registered charity, with charitable returns posted on the Canada Revenue Agency website.