Hope Haven asking for more volunteers during extreme cold

The Chatham Hope Haven men's homeless shelter is pleading for volunteers to come forward so they won't have to send clients out in dangerously low temperatures. January 29, 2018. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

A local men’s homeless shelter needs more volunteers so they aren’t forced to send people out into extremely cold temperatures.

Chatham Hope Haven is only open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and is looking to extend those hours so it can house people in need for the entire day. Co-ordinator of communications and volunteers Wanda Bell said volunteers are putting in more hours so the shelter can stay open until noon but they still need more help.

“It would nice to have ideally 12 more volunteers,” Bell said. “We are encouraging those who are already on our roster to put in a few more hours, however, that’s not always easy. Many people have jobs and they’re already giving a lot of time in the night. It’s a struggle. I would hate to have anyone found outside frozen because of the temperature so I hope we do get a few extra people.”

Bell said the shelter has enough volunteers to cover Tuesday and Wednesday but unless others step up, those using the facility will be forced out at 7 a.m. Thursday. Temperatures are projected to remain around -20 C on Thursday and that is before factoring in any windchill.

According to Bell, the shelter had a problem with volunteers last year during extreme cold temperatures and one of the men who use the facility got frostbite on his hands.

“That’s always a fear that they’re out there just too long and it might cause frostbite or worse,” Bell said. “We have some older gentlemen and it’s a real shame that anyone has to be out. I know some seek refuge in public buildings but we close our services at 7 a.m. so there are those few hours in the morning where there is nowhere to go.”

Bell added there are currently 32 volunteers but more are always needed and highly appreciated.

“The actual supervising volunteers are really what we need,” Bell said. “Some folks volunteer week after week, some bi-monthly and some once a month. Those who come week after week, they could have a break once in a while if we had more volunteers.”

She added for those who can’t volunteer monetary donations are always appreciated. Bell said anyone looking to support can come out to the Haven’s Soups On fundraiser on Family Day which is February 18.