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Cold weather adds to shelter's workload

North Van's homeless shelter has run above capacity since the day it opened

THE 20-man emergency dorm in the basement of North Vancouver's Lookout Emergency Aid Society shelter was originally intended to be an activity room, not part of the sleeping arrangements.

Initially, organizers believed that 25 emergency beds would be enough to meet the needs of homeless people on the North Shore, but the additional space has been occupied since its completion, says community liaison worker David Newberry.

Year round, the shelter runs at 105 per cent of its capacity and is forced to turn people away every day, says Newberry.

The 45 emergency beds at Lookout are available 24/7 in addition to 25 bachelor suites reserved for two-year transitional housing.

However, during cold snaps, the centre rolls out 20 additional mats in the dining area for people to simply come in from the cold and stay warm and dry. North Vancouver issued this season's first emergency weather alert on Dec. 7.

"We just say 'it's freezing, get in here,'" says Newberry.

Standard barriers such as intake and entrance interviews are overlooked, although the cleaning and laundry protocol is still in place.

"We just want people to come in," says Newberry.

Like other charitable organizations, the Lookout does 90 per cent of its annual fundraising during the holiday season and is putting out a call for donations of all makes and models.

BC Housing funds minimum costs, but the shelter relies on donations to provide all other services, including care packages.

"Someone who lives here needs the same stuff as the rest of us do," says Newberry.

There is currently an urgent need for warm clothing, but also for chronically overlooked items such as toiletries, underwear, shaving kits.

Bus tickets are in particularly high demand because 25 per cent of shelter guests are currently employed.

"They need to get to work," says Newberry.

The three municipalities from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay are among the most prosperous in Canada, but there are pockets of astounding poverty.

"It can be a challenge to convince people on the North Shore that poverty exists here," says Newberry.

Another overlooked reality is that the majority of people who use the Lookout's services are North Shore born and raised, says Newberry.

All contributions are welcome at 705 West Second St., North Vancouver.

By donating, you could be helping out a former classmate, colleague, student, teammate or friend.

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