Campbell River’s Radiant Life Church moves quickly to shelter the homeless
Small is Beautiful, according to a counter-cultural book of the last century. Now a Campbell River church is proving that small is powerful. Radiant Life Church has only 60 members and a part-time pastor. But when the need emerged for an emergency shelter for the north-Vancouver Island city, they quickly stepped into the breach.
With help from the private sector and funding from the provincial government, the congregation has offered Campbell River’s hardest cases semi-private (two bunk beds per) rooms in a custom-modified 40-ft-long steel shipping box. With room for 16, the shelter has never had to turn anyone away.
Living Room Startup
Pastor Art Van Holst heads Radiant Life, which belongs to the Congregationalist Churches of Canada, when he isn’t running a janitorial service. The church started in the living room 15 years ago but five years later moved into CR’s downtown. This brought the congregation into close proximity with the city’s homeless, for whom they were soon doing a soup kitchen on Sundays. Back then the Salvation Army provided the city’s emergency shelter and it still does: with one exception. It decided late last year that it couldn’t operate a “low barrier” shelter anymore, meaning one that took everyone. Those on drugs or alcohol, or who weren’t taking their medication for mental illness, were proving too disruptive to the rest.
God Called, They Answered
“They told us, ‘If someone else will do this, we would like to get out of it,’” said Van Holst. “We had heard rumours and we had decided as a congregation that we would do it. We felt God was calling us in this direction.”
Their timing was perfect, Shadow Lines Transportation Group of Langley had just produced a prototype homeless shelter from a shipping crate it called the Temporary Homeless Relief Shelter, with eight small bedrooms, a bathroom, hot water furnace and battery banks to provide 12 hours’ self-sufficiency.
Various civic and provincial authorities looked closely at the plan, which included volunteer staff from Radiant Life, and well aware of the downtown’s destitute, approved it swiftly. B.C. Housing provided the funding. Home Depot kicked in landscaping.
- “It’s been a real blessing, sums up Pastor Van Ho