Women’s shelter gives warmth, welcome

by NightShift

For people without homes in Metro Vancouver, the February frigid temperatures and snowstorms have made basic health and survival a challenge. But the weather issues facing folks without homes began before the snow started falling. Last November the rain was so bad that Marcia couldn’t go out for days. The 54-year-old woman, who is homeless, was living in a tent in a Surrey forest. Marcia remembers the rain fell so hard the path from her tent was submerged under about a foot of water. She was confined to her wet tent for two days straight.

That’s when a friend urged Marcia to find warmth at NightShift’s Extreme Weather Response Shelter for Women. She agreed, and has been sleeping safely in the shelter ever since, along with her little dog Peaches. She is grateful to be safe and dry, especially with February’s freezing temperatures and winter snow. Along with being protected from the elements, Marcia is thankful for something more – the acceptance and compassion she has experienced at NightShift’s EWR shelter.

“They are good people here at NightShift. Nobody judges me here, they just accept me,” shares Marcia. Being accepted and welcomed is especially important when you are without a home. “It’s lonely being homeless. I’ve heard other people say it’s my fault I’m homeless and that I deserve it. I just cry and let it go. It could happen to anyone.”

Marcia and her adult daughter lost their apartment last June when a roommate failed to pay his portion of the bills. Unable to find affordable housing, the two, along with Peaches, began sleeping in a tent. Marcia collected empty bottles and cans, and folded laundry to earn a little money to pay for food and necessities. By the time inclement weather came in November, she was grateful for safe, warm shelter at NightShift.

The shelter, which has capacity for 15 women a night, is open during sub-zero or very wet conditions. It is supervised by two shelter workers, one from NightShift, and one from a neighbour ministry, Surrey Urban Mission Society. Basic clothing, toiletries, and snacks are provided. NightShift shelter worker Jacki Love says the shelter is important not only to provide physical well-being to the ladies who stay there, but also spiritual and emotional support in the form of hope and community.

“I try to give them the sense that there is still good in the world,” says Jacki, who began volunteering with NightShift in 2014. “I hope that maybe when I’m talking to them that they might realize they are good and worth a decent life. Every single one of them, no matter who they are deserves dignity and respect.”

Some nights at the shelter, Jacki brings out her iPad, and the women gather to watch a movie. She says those nights are important because it gives the ladies the opportunity to experience the “girl’s night” kind of warmth and bonding that women with homes enjoy. “They feel really cozy. Marcia actually said it was like staying at Grandma’s house, watching a show, drinking tea and eating treats,” says Jacki.

While Marcia worries about the challenges of finding a home again in the face of Metro Vancouver’s high rents, and low vacancy, she says the safety and welcome at NightShift’s shelter help her hold onto hope, and grow in self-love. “We are given the benefit of the doubt at NightShift. They’re helpful and just different here,” shares Marcia. “We get treated so good.”

The generosity of NightShift’s donors help keep our shelter doors open for women in need in very cold and wet temperatures. Your giving can help keep women like Marcia warm during the winter, while caring for their hearts and souls too.

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