Staff at Pidcock House have been struggling some nights to house everyone looking for a bed. File photo

Staff at Pidcock House have been struggling some nights to house everyone looking for a bed. File photo

Courtenay emergency shelter hits capacity in cold weather

Beds are at a premium these days at the Pidcock emergency shelter in Courtenay. Lately, on occasion, staff have been left with no choice but to turn people away at the door.

It’s a conundrum that has left the Salvation Army and other member agencies of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness wondering what to do when the snow starts to fly and the wind blows sideways.

“Sending people outside is just not an option, so how are we going to manage this?” said Brent Hobden, community ministries director at the Salvation Army, which operates Pidcock House. “That’s something that’s in the works, trying to figure out what our next steps are to look after our homeless population.

“Pretty much every night, our 18 shelter beds are full, and the additional 12 Extreme Weather Response beds (mats) are also full,” he added. “We have, on occasion, been over-capacity. It’s been a struggle for us.”

Typically, the shelter has plenty of space for women, but sometimes struggles when it comes to men’s beds. Starting in November, Hobden said there were times they couldn’t fit a few people inside.

In terms of social distancing, he said facemasks are offered at the door.

“They’re not required to wear them, but certainly encouraged to wear them. We’ve been managing so far.”

Hobden gives a huge shoutout to Canadian Tire and the Comox Valley Community Foundation for their donations (216 litres) of hand sanitizer.

•The Salvation Army Christmas kettle campaign is also struggling this year.

“We’re finding with fewer people going into the stores, our kettle numbers are down,” Hobden said. “Just trying to get volunteers has been unbelievable. It’s because people are worried about the COVID. So we’re not getting the volunteers, we’re not getting the kettles out there as often.”

Typically, he said the Salvation Army averages 12-15 kettle locations. This year, it’s averaging six or seven.

Hobden also notes an approximate 30 per cent increase in the demand for Christmas hampers.