British Columbia

Sechelt shelter gets extra funding following death of homeless man

An emergency shelter for the homeless in Sechelt, B.C., is getting an extra $40,000 to remain open this winter following the death of a regular patron earlier this month.

Man found dead on park bench in Gibsons earlier this month

The death of a homeless man in Gibsons B.C. raised concerns there are not adequate services for vulnerably housed people on the Sunshine Coast. (Google streetview)

An emergency shelter for the homeless in Sechelt, B.C., is getting an extra $40,000 to remain open this winter following the death of a regular patron earlier this month.

The victim Harry Paul, 50, was found dead on a park bench in Gibsons on the weekend of Nov 14 and 15 as temperatures dipped.

It remains unclear how Paul died, but staff say he was a regular at the shelter at St. Hilda's Anglican Church in Sechelt — the only one on the Sunshine Coast — when it was open.

The facility was closed the weekend he died because the initial $40,000 federal grant used to keep the shelter open had run out, allowing it to only open during extreme weather.

Volunteers facing challenges

Clarence Li, the rector at St. Hilda's By the Sea Anglican church said at the time the tragedy highlighted the challenges small communities like Sechelt face providing emergency shelter and affordable housing on an ad hoc basis.

"Because the person who passed away was a regular client, it has really hit our workers and volunteers hard," said Li, who recalled Harry Paul had a quick sense of humour and loved to draw in a First Nations style.

After Paul's death, B.C. Housing stepped in quickly to connect the volunteers with the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver to get the shelter open right away, he said.

"These are all volunteers, who have full time work as well, so we have been feeling that to move to the next level ... we need an organizational agency to pick up this program " he said.

With the new funding it will now be open every night until the end of March, according to a statement released by Housing Minister Rich Coleman.

An online fundraising campaign also raised more than $3,000 to keep the shelter open.

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