VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Head-counts and locked doors are a new reality for First United Church. The City of Vancouver has started strictly enforcing occupancy limits, which means more homeless people are being turned away.

It started last night as the numbers crept up to 240, says Ric Matthews with the church. “Once we know that we are very close to the 240, we monitor carefully. As soon as we get to 240, we lock the front door and they then get turned away.”

He says the shift manager spent most of his night turning people that he knew by name away from a safe, warm bed.

“The shift manager that was on duty last night personally looked 27 people — at least — in the eye, people whose name he knows, whose lives he understands and say ‘Yes I know there is space in the gym, but we have an occupancy level, and I care about you, and I know it is freezing cold, and I know there is no other place for you…but you can’t come in.’”

“He said quite clearly that it was the worst night of all of his days at First United,” explains Matthews, who says it shifts the relationship between them and the people they’re trying to help.

“It is like turning your daughter away from your home because your landlord says you can only have five people… it’s bitterly cold outside and she has no where else to go and the streets are dangerous but she can’t come in.”

Matthews says if the city was a little more creative, there would be another place for these people to go.