Students from St. John Paul Academy II spent the night in White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter. (Lisa Van Vliet photo)

Students spend night at White Rock shelter

Students hear powerful stories about homelessness on the Semiahmoo Peninsula

A group of 12- and 13-year-old students spent the night in White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter last week to get a different perspective on life on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

The students were joined by St. John Paul II Academy humanities teacher Kevin Beliveau, three other teachers and two parents.

Just like any other operational night, the students had to follow all of the rules of the shelter including not entering the building until 9 p.m., lights out at 11 p.m., and they had to leave the building by 7 a.m. the next day.

However, the most powerful moment of the experience was not the physical arrangements, but the stories told by shelter volunteers.

“They’re tough stories,” Beliveau told Peace Arch News last week.

One story that had particular impact on the students, Beliveau said, was one about a man who last year, during a particularly cold winter season, was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Peace Arch Hospital.

SEE ALSO: Extreme-weather shelters open due to rainfall

The man didn’t have a place to stay, and shelter volunteers would frequently see him take advantage of the cold weather shelter, which opens during extreme weather events or if the weather nears 0C.

“We have a few kids whose parents are battling cancer right now. I know that kind of rang home for them because they know what that looks like. They know what it feels like watching their parents go through some of the treatment. Just to even imagine a man not having anywhere to sleep after he spends time in the hospital,” Beliveau said.

Beliveau said he could tell the stories had an impact due to not only the questions the students asked, but their silence during the storytelling.

“The silence, I think, was either the kids processing the depth of the intensity of the stories or sometimes almost a little bit of – shock is probably too strong of a word – but a little bit of being overwhelmed by how powerful some of the stories were the staff were sharing.”

St. John Paul II Academy, which is in its second year of operation, is currently using space in the Star of the Sea Parish Centre (formally community hall) until operations move to Morgan Crossing.

Peninsula United Church uses the Parish Centre to operate its extreme-weather shelter.

SEE ALSO: New Catholic school opens temporary space in White Rock

Beliveau said just by the nature of both groups using the same hall, there was contact between the school and extreme-weather shelter volunteer co-ordinator Joan McMurtry, who helped facilitate the student sleepover event.

Beliveau said the shelter, which was closed to the public the night of the event, was a way to show students that poverty and homelessness is an issue that’s not isolated to Downtown Eastside.

“They have a sense, they know that there are people who are having a difficult time, but they don’t see it in their face in South Surrey and White Rock. They think the poor in the Lower Mainland are all Downtown Eastside or Whalley.” Beliveau said.

“We’re always trying to find a creative way for kids, who often come from a lot of affluence, to see their privilege that they’re born into so often, and try to challenge them to do something about it. The knowledge is the first piece.”

The students were given snacks and a bowl of Cheerios. Students also had to sleep on mats provided to regular guests but the biggest challenge, Beliveau said, was that students were told not to bring their cellphone.

“That was probably the toughest part for the majority of the kids that said no, I can’t do it,” Beliveau said.

“They can sleep on the floor, they can eat popcorn and hot chocolate, they could go to bed early and wake up early. But separate them from their phones? And of the 40 kids in the school, only 12 of the 40 were able to give this a try.”

Lisa van Vliet, one of the parents that participated in the event, described the evening as “solemn, reflective and respectful of the experience.”

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

 

Students from St. John Paul Academy II spent the night in White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter. (Lisa Van Vliet photo)

Just Posted

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

Kristjon Olson in a photo released by Surrey RCMP.
High-risk offender back in custody facing child-porn charges, Surrey Mounties say

News of Kristjon Otto Olson’s arrest is posted to Surrey RCMP’s website

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)
BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

A overview concept drawing of the Central District and its City Plaza, Gateway and Kennedy Heights neighbourhoods included in the Mayor’s Housing Task Force for Scott Road report. (City of Delta photo)
Walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods focus of task force’s vision for Scott Road

Report by Mayor’s Housing Task Force for Scott Road was presented to Delta council on Monday

tease photo
Food truck desserts from Prague ‘pop up’ at Surrey shopping mall

The Praguery offers a modern take on a traditional pastry

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Maestro Otto Tausk. (Photo: vancouversymphony.ca)
50/50 lotto players buck up for Metro Vancouver musicians hit hard by COVID

‘Rapidly growing jackpot’ for VSO’s 50/50 draw as they go online with TheConcertHall.ca

Most Read