A look inside the Richards Street temporary homeless shelter in Yaletown

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I’m taking you in to some of the temporary winter homeless shelters set up in your city. If you’re just arriving please take a few minutes to get up to speed by reading THIS piece that profiles the City of Vancouver’s Advocate for the Homeless (it even says so on her business card), my tour guide through all of this, Judy Graves. Then read THIS piece where I take you inside the Seymour Street shelter in Yaletown. Those first two pieces lay the groundwork and explain what these shelters are and what makes them an incredibly important and awesome thing happening in Vancouver.

Last year these shelters were only open on the coldest of days, set up as emergency beds and managed by volunteers. This year they’re open every single day from December until May and are managed by Raincity Housing. There will be 160 more people (mostly men) with a roof over their heads all the way until late spring thanks to a partnership between the city and the provincial government. It takes commitments on many levels to make this sort of thing happen, HERE is a link to the City of Vancouver web page that talks about these shelters and how they’re working with the province.

Below is what the outside of the Richards Street shelter in Yaletown looks like. The entranceway is circled and as you can tell it’s the old Sutra restaurant building, which is actually owned by the City of Vancouver. The Seymour Street shelter is being leased to them but in this case they’re using one of the properties that they own in order to house the homeless.

Let’s go inside…

Judy met me there about an hour before it opened for the winter so that I could shoot the overview photo below and give you an idea of what it really looks like inside. I want to respect the people living in the shelters so I won’t be sharing many photos of them because (like I said in my previous post) I wouldn’t be too happy if somebody walked into my home and randomly asked to take photos of me.

This shelter differs from the Seymour one in one major way, and that’s the size. The Seymour one is quite wide open and sprawling whereas this one’s main room is a bit smaller, accommodating 40 beds. Bunk beds. Here’s what your spot might look like as your arrived to it. Inside the bin (used to keep your stuff in) is a large pillow and a blanket.

And here’s the kitchen, where you’d be making yourself breakfast, and where lunch and dinner would be served hot.

Free laundry, like the Seymour one.

And two showers like this one which I believe were purpose built for the shelter.

Though this Richards space is smaller than Seymour they do boast one advantage, and that is the second floor lounge area. When I went in there was a guy messing around with cable on the right as there was talk of a TV arriving.

And here’s the view looking out as you’re leaving.

Speaking of leaving, one thing I haven’t touched on yet is the fact that these temporary shelters actually play a significant role in getting the people who are using them into more permanent housing. In THIS piece that Frances Bula wrote about the temporary shelters of 2010 ALL of the people in them were offered permanent housing by the end of their run. So it’s not simply about getting these people off the streets so they don’t freeze (though that is obviously a big part of it), it’s about helping them take the next step to becoming stable and not ever having to return to the street. That is awesome.

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Bob is our founder and Editor-in-Chief. A family man and outdoors enthusiast in his 3rd decade of publishing, he steers the V.I.A. ship, hosts our 'BC Was Awesome' history TV show and co-hosts our weekly podcast. bobk@vancouverisawesome.com