New extreme-weather shelter opens tonight on West Side in Vancouver Odd Fellows hall

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      An article that appeared on Straight.com a year ago has persuaded some good samaritans to open their doors to the less fortunate.

      Homeless blogger Stanley Q. Woodvine has written periodically about how the West Side of Vancouver lost its last extreme-weather shelter when a Larch Street church was redeveloped.

      These posts were reproduced on Straight.com and one of them caught the eye of Walter Wells, a member of Vancouver Odd Fellows.

      So Wells reached out to Woodvine and asked if he could help.

      Twelve months later, Vancouver Odd Fellows is opening an extreme-weather response shelter tonight for people hoping to escape the cold.

      "I read that article," Wells recalled in a phone interview. "It just occurred to me that we have this big community hall.

      "It sits empty and warm all night—and our purpose as an organization is to help the community."

      The hall is at 1443 West 8th Avenue, just a block away from the McDonald's where Woodvine has been eating breakfast for many years.

      "Stanley, I find, is a very interesting guy," Wells related. "I really want to commend him and give him the credit."

      The city activates warming centres as a life-saving measure in cold weather for people who normally sleep outside.

      In recent years, they've been available in downtown Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside, and the East Side of the city.

      But thanks to the Odd Fellows initiative, there's now one in the Fairview neighbourhood.

      Wells said that he and another member, Chris Thompson, brought forward a proposal for lodge members to consider.

      "It wasn't a slam dunk for our lodge," Wells acknowledged. "Our purpose is to help people.

      "They're good guys but there were some legitimate concerns," he continued. "We had no experience in this. We didn't know if we were up to the task."

      Fortunately, they received some guidance from Mary Ellen Glover and Gloria Leung at the City of Vancouver.

      The society had to meet the city's legal and insurance requirements, as well as satisfying the fire department and Vancouver Coastal Health.

      "We can open our doors when it's very dangerous out there," Wells said. "I'm hoping we have a few people who can keep warm."

      Due to the cold weather and snow in the forecast, the Vancouver Odd Fellows hall will be open from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. from January 22 to 27.

      Warming centres are also opening from January 22 to 27 at these locations: 

      • Powell Street Getaway, 528 Powell St: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
      • Vancouver Aquatic Centre, 1050 Beach Ave: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
      • Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m

      Update

      On January 23, Walter Wells tweeted this image.

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