‘A happy ending,’ Kyle Centre to operate as extreme weather shelter in fall, winter and possibly early spring

file photo Marissa Tiel

The Kyle Centre in Port Moody will once again serve as an extreme weather shelter for vulnerable people throughout the Tri-Cities this year, according to Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald.

The Phoenix Society is slated to operate the 20-bed overnight shelter, which generally opens during periods of extreme rain as well as during 0 C temperatures.

“It is a happy ending,” Macdonald said, noting there was a level of uncertainty due in part to the deteriorating condition of the 1977-era building.

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At a meeting earlier this year, Port Moody council opted to have city staff investigate exterior repairs to the 1977-era Kyle Centre. That decision followed a 2020 staff report which recommended rebuilding a storage room, replacing sections of the roof, and putting up new cedar wall cladding, among other improvements.

Macdonald thanked Port Moody council for making the extreme weather shelter a priority. But while the program is a “vital extension” of shelter services, Macdonald noted that it was: “by no means are a solution to some of the housing challenges that we’re experiencing in the Tri-Cities.”

The shelter ran at near-capacity for two months after opening in November 2021. Amid torrential rain and below-freezing temperatures, some people were spending all day going back and forth on the SkyTrain just to stay out of the weather, Macdonald said.

“People had no chance of getting dry, they had no chance of taking shelter anywhere else.”

The shelter typically begins operating November 1. However, due to the increasing frequency of extreme weather including heavy rainfall, the shelter will open its doors Oct. 15, Macdonald said.

“I think we’re really recognizing now that the extremities of our weather and changing climate is providing challenges for folks that are seeking shelter,” Macdonald noted.

While Macdonald said he was thankful to get the news about Kyle Centre, he explained that the demand for extreme weather shelter is just more evidence of the dearth of resources for homeless people.

The only permanent shelter at 3030 Gordon “just is not enough to meet that ongoing need,” Macdonald said. That need may be exacerbated next march, he added.

Since 2020, the Best Western SureStay Hotel on Brunette Avenue has been used as a shelter; in part to stem the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless population.

Phoenix Society and B.C. Housing inked a one-year extension earlier this year but there are no guarantees the shelter will continue to operate after March 31, 2023.

“Without another location or an extension in the current location – we could lose over 30 beds,” Macdonald said.

The Kyle Centre shelter could operate until April 2023 depending on weather conditions.

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