As the chilling conditions of winter persist, many are relying on homeless shelters. Close to one hundred people are turning to shelters in Prince George for a warm place to stay.
“We are certainly busy,” says the Executive Director of Active Support Against Poverty (ASAP), Audrey Schwartz.”For example, last night in Prince George between the three homeless shelters we had 99 people in, so that’s a lot of people.”
This winter, the province added close to 540 temporary shelters across 16 communities. “30 beds were added in Prince George,” says Schwartz.”That’s 10 for each shelter.”
Almost all of the beds are filled each night.
It’s not just a number, though… it’s a face. It’s a person. Murphy George is a resident carver at the fire-pit. He spends his days sculpting cedar blocks into beautiful works of art to make a living. At night, he stays at the men’s shelter. “That place has been a huge help in my life. If the shelters weren’t there I don’t know what I would be doing. I would probably be sleeping on the streets or something.”
George is a recovered addict. He is noticing an increasing amount of people using the shelters. “There’s a lot. There’s a lot more than it used to be. The numbers have gone up down here. Especially this time of year.”
That can put a strain on shelters. “Most of us will expand further than the beds that were allotted if we need to,” says Schwartz.
“If they don’t have enough room and it’s 1 a.m. and you have nowhere to go, they give you a blanket and a pillow and you can sleep on the couch,” says George. “Or even I have seen people sleeping on the floor inside there. They are really really helpful.”
The high demand can be linked to many social issues, but one stands out. “There is not enough of affordable and accessible housing,” says Schwartz. “Some of the people who use the homeless shelters also require supports while they are in the housing. That’s what the real solution is.”
As for George, he will continue chipping away at a new lifestyle, while keeping out of the cold.