A temporary 44-bed shelter has been set up in the old Stage building in downtown Mission. / Kevin Mills Photo

A temporary 44-bed shelter has been set up in the old Stage building in downtown Mission. / Kevin Mills Photo

Temporary 44-bed shelter created in downtown Mission

Former location of The Stage now being used to help homeless

The former The Stage building in downtown Mission is currently being used as a 44-bed shelter to help provide services for the homeless and other marginalized residents in the area.

Michelle Puffer, executive director of Mission Community Services (MCS), said each year the organization runs an extreme-weather shelter, which would normally close on March 31.

“BC Housing asked if we could continue to run it, but Elks Hall, where we were doing the adult weather shelter, wasn’t available anymore. So we had to scramble for space. So currently we are just using The Stage as a relief shelter,” she said.

While the cold weather is gone, COVID-19 prompted the request to continue providing help for those who need it.

“They are trying to get the people out of the camps because they feel that people are more susceptible to infecting each other,” Puffer said.

It took a bit of organizing because The Stage building, located on First Avenue, had to be modified to pass fire codes and allow for 44 mats to be located inside, each at a safe distance from each other.

Puffer said The Stage was the best location for the shelter because, although it is in the downtown core, it is at the end of the block and, hopefully, it will be less bothersome for people.

Carlo Billinger, president of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), said he wishes there had been more dialogue with the DBA and the residents in the area before the shelter was created.

“It was kind of sprung on us. We heard about it off the street before we heard about it from anybody official,” he said.

Since then, he has been in contact with MCS to discuss the impact of the shelter on downtown businesses.

Billinger said he has talked to other business owners downtown and they understand what’s going on.

“Nobody is hard against it … but we don’t want this to be a permanent thing.”

He has been told the timeline is June 30 and he believes businesses can live with that.

Billinger’s fear is the timeline will be extended for another 30 days and then another until it’s time to use it as an extreme-weather shelter.

“Until redevelopment comes on that building, I can see that possibility existing and I really hope it doesn’t. It has definitely impacted downtown.”

He said with the increased number of homeless people wandering in the area, First Avenue is “starting to look a little bit like East Hastings, which is unfortunate,” especially after all the money that was spent on revitalization.

Puffer said the DBA’s concerns are common ones.

“The problem with any of these kinds of things is a lot of people are ‘not in my backyard’ but they want people off the streets, but don’t know where off the streets, as long as it’s not near them.”

Billinger and other members of the DBA have been invited to tour the facility. He plans to ask several questions at that time.

“My biggest issue with it is it seems like there are a lot of new faces downtown, who have come because of those beds,” said Billinger, adding he has spoken with many of Mission’s “street people” and marginalized people and “none of them are living there.”

He suspects that the facility was created and now people from Maple Ridge and Abbotsford have come to use it.

“It’s one of those things where you build it and they come.”

Tyler Weatherup, manager of housing and outreach for MCS, said the shelter serves Mission.

“We basically hit capacity the first week we were open and my program coordinator there said, basically everyone is a familiar face. In any shelter system you see a transient population – it is the nature of it – but we are meeting the need of Mission,” Weatherup said.

He believes about 150 people live in camps in Mission, so the 44 beds make an impact, but that still doesn’t meet the local need.

The new shelter is open 24 hours a day and provides basic services – three meals a day, showers, basic hygiene products and support services.

“We are also working with Fraser Health and public health very closely to develop systems. So if somebody comes and they are coughing or have a fever or any of the symptoms, we have a referral process in place so they can go from the shelter to dedicated spots where they get testing done,” Weatherup said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police seized two fake guns and a knife on Saturday along Gladys Avenue in east Abbotsford.
Man arrested in Abbotsford after having fake gun for second time this year

Officers respond to all firearm calls as if the guns are real, police say

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Tabor Home records 16 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at Abbotsford long-term-care facility have tested positive

Elementary teacher Jo-Ann Lindahl poses with her students following an outdoor ‘closing circle’ in which they discussed what they had learned that day. (Image submitted)
Mission elementary teacher to receive national Indigenous educator award

Jo-Ann Lindahl named a 2020 Guiding the Journey: Educator Award recipient

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:06 a.m.
Early-morning crash on Highway 1 has morning commuters in gridlock

Westbound crash occurred in Langley, west of 264th Street; left lane blocked

Swoop Airlines. (Contributed)
COVID-19 case reported on Abbotsford-bound flight last week

Affected flight landed in Abbotsford on Nov. 16

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Most Read