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CMHA warming shelter to close, considers offering cooling services

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Once spring has sprung, warming shelters may be replaced with cooling shelters as the weather shifts.

The CMHA Mid-Island Branch’s warming center at 489 Wallace Street will be closing down come March.

“Our contract was only to operate for two months and we’ve been able to extend it just slightly because we started just before Christmas in December,” said Jason Harrison, Executive Director of the CMHA. “Ultimately we were just sub-leasing the space to keep the service running through the worst of the winter.”

Harrison says they plan to offer the warming center’s services next winter as well, if they get the contract and space to do so. The CMHA is currently seeking building options for a cooling center, as they’re unlikely to use their current space again.

“As much as it’s a great location— right downtown— it’s not terribly accessible and it’s not quite large enough,” said Harrison. “It’s just too many stairs and it’s too tight. We’re actively looking for other spaces and we also have a few different spots around the community that we might be able to repurpose— locations that we already have that we weren’t able to [repurpose] quickly this past winter.”

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It’s likely that the new warming / cooling center will still be downtown, as he says the need is great, especially in Nanaimo.

“[CMHA was] part of a conversation the other day that the services in the city really haven’t increased meaningfully in five plus years. We were already needing more services five years ago and the issues have increased tenfold. We’re still at the same level so we definitely need that investment in the community in a large way to meet the demands.”

The warming center saw around forty people a day, mostly people who were in the 30-60 age range.

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