A near record-setting number of people began the transition from life on the streets into housing or recovery last month, according to officials at the area's lone homeless shelter in PoCo.
In December, 12 people either entered into long-term housing or accessed addiction-related services, a number that represents a spike not seen since 2009 or 2010.
Rob Thiessen, executive director of the Hope For Freedom Society, credited those numbers in part to the fact the Tri-Cities Bridge Shelter project has a vast network of volunteers - close to 750 - to call on for support.
"But at the same time, we're not like your standard shelter in other parts of the Lower Mainland," Thiessen said. "They don't have an outreach team at their disposal like we do that can work on issues during the day. I think our model is absolutely the greatest."
Based out of the Northside Church on Kingsway Avenue, the shelter not only serves as a place to stay, it also offers clients the option to directly transition into other health-care and addiction services.
Though Thiessen could not provide a specific tally around those who went into housing versus those who went into rehab, the success rate in December is similar to only one other time in the program's history - three years ago, the society transitioned 50 people into long-term housing over a five-month period.
"Things have gone very well," said Sandy Burpee, chair of the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group. "It's amazing to see the number of volunteers involved in doing something at the shelter. It continues to be a very strong sense of community engagement."
Because of the number of people transitioned off the streets last month, the shelter's overall numbers fluctuated over the course of December: the beginning of the month saw roughly 20-plus people at the facility nightly, while the back half of December saw those numbers hover around the low teens. The breakdown of those accessing the shelter also remained fairly standard: about 75 to 80 per cent were men, while the remainder were women. In 2011, those numbers rose to the point where about 35 per cent of shelter clients were women.
"I can't add any rhyme or reason to why that was," Thiessen said.
And while one of the homeless service models was kept busy last month, the other wasn't needed at all.
The Extreme Weather Response Shelter out of Trinity United Church on Prairie Avenue has not opened its doors since 2007 or 2008.