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Thirty-four people were staying at the Upper Deck shelter on Wharf Avenue in Sechelt when, in the early hours of February 7, a fire broke out. Extensive water damage from the sprinklers forced the immediate closure of the building, which also housed an overdose prevention site and Angelo’s Pizza. The Upper Deck is managed by RainCity Housing.

Responding to the urgent need to find housing for the evacuated residents, in collaboration with BC Housing, the District of Sechelt and the Town of Gibsons as well as RainCity Housing, the Parish of St. Hilda’s opened up its annex for at least the next three months, while the work to renovate the Upper Deck goes on. The newly restored shelter will again house thirty-five people, and in the meantime, St. Hilda’s annex provides housing for twenty people displaced by the fire. The annex is open twenty-four hours a day, and is staffed by at least two RainCity employees and a security detail the clock round, explained Mandy, a RainCity representative at a recent discussion among members of the St. Hilda’s congregation. Ten two-tier bunks provide beds for the twenty inhabitants, who will also have access to laundry facilities onsite.

The parish has experience with shelter provision. In 2012, when Sechelt had no other facilities for the unhoused, the church opened the Sunshine Coast Emergency Homelessness Shelter during winter months, again using the annex. When the District of Sechelt and RainCity Housing established a new year-round shelter at the former site of the Upper Deck Hostel in December 2017, the St. Hilda’s shelter closed, and the annex reverted to daytime use, especially as a meeting place for 12-Step programs. The parish has found other meeting space for these groups while the shelter is in operation, so that their programs can continue without interruption, and is very grateful to them for their willingness to be flexible about accommodation in the new circumstances. 


Article and images submitted by Christine Pawley