February 25, 2018

Left out in the cold

Reverend Ric Matthews is bracing for the worst.

On Wednesday night, the First United Church — a longtime safe haven for homeless people in the Downtown Eastside — had to turn away people seeking shelter from the cold streets because city and fire inspectors began enforcing the building’s occupancy limit of 240 people.

“The consequence was that there were at least 27 people who were met and told, face-to-face, ‘We know you, we care about you…. Despite the fact you have nowhere else to go, you cannot come into this building,’” Matthews said.

The church was unable to find other accommodations for the stranded, and Matthews worries about the possibility of someone dying on the streets in the middle of winter.

In the midst of the crisis, Mayor Gregor Robertson — who maintains it’s not safe for the church to be operating over capacity — is furious that the provincial government won’t provide $ 1.5 million to run the city’s emergency 160-bed HEAT shelters. 

Local news from metronews.ca/vancouver

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