B.C. inmates help provide blankets for homeless

VANCOUVER — Inmates at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre are doing their part to give back to society by making bedrolls for B.C.’s homeless out of linens diverted from landfills.

Ten inmates at the pretrial centre in Port Coquitlam recently signed up for a new program in which they separate, fold, roll and stack thousands of blankets, sheets and towels to be donated to charities serving B.C.’s homeless and at-risk, as well as animal shelters.

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In the program’s first five weeks, they handled close to 3,200 kilograms of linens to create about 2,500 bedrolls.

John Campbell, assistant deputy warden of programs at the pretrial centre, said many inmates understand how important it is to give a helping hand to service-providers.

“It’s a way for them to give back to the communities that they get so much from,” Campbell said. “A lot of these guys have been in the care of some of these charitable organizations in the past, because some of them were homeless.”

An instructor and correctional officer at the pretrial centre sourced the used linens — some no longer fit for hospitals — from a local textile company this year.

Inmates at the centre have been charged with a crime and are remanded until charges are dismissed or they’re granted bail, found not guilty or sentenced and begin serving their sentence.

The bedroll program pays them for half-days.

Campbell said the program is the first of its kind at the pretrial centre and he looks forward to seeing it expand.

Staff are looking for more used-linen sources and distributors in hopes of reaching other communities and helping people who are recovering from fires, flooding and other unexpected challenges.

The Union Gospel Mission is among service providers grateful to be receiving the bedrolls.

Spokesman Jeremy Hunka said that when the pretrial centre contacted them about the program, staff wasted no time in forming a partnership.

“This time of the year, especially, it’s just misery for people who don’t have warmth, and cold-weather gear,” Hunka said.

Hunka said the mission on Hastings Street has received about 100 bedrolls from the pretrial centre and almost all have been distributed.

Most are handed out to street homeless by staff who travel to them with UGM’s outreach-and-rescue van. They’re always thrilled to receive the soft, warming gift, Hunka said.

“People who are in a pretrial centre — society looks at them a certain way,” he said. “I think that this shows that people in all circumstances can have value to offer society.”

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