Vancouver church struggles to pay $2,800 BC Hydro bill after taking in homeless during winter
A Downtown Eastside church catering to the homeless is facing a massive hydro bill after an exceptionally chilly winter.
The Street Church at 175 East Hastings served daily meals and offered visitors a place to warm up and dry off during the cold spell.
“We had the coffee pots going and the food going and everything happening because it was so cold. I was worried about the bill, but still pretty shocked when I got it,” says Pastor Randy Barnetson.
The volunteer-run charity received its bill last week: $2,847 for four months; which is double what the church paid last year.
“It’s way more than we can manage, we just get by anyways. To get hit with $2,800 was pretty hard,” Barnetson told Global News.
When temperatures plummeted in January, electricity use around the Lower Mainland broke a 10-year record.
BC Hydro introduced a Winter Payment Plan option, which gives residential customers the choice to spread bill payments over a six-month period.
More than 1,600 customers have already contacted BC Hydro about the plan. Officials say the same option will be available to the Street Church.
“We recognize the church is a really important part of the community, and that’s why we’re going to do everything that we can to help make it easier for them to pay their bills,” BC Hydro’s Mora Scott said. “We obviously have really flexible payment options in place.”
Barnetson wants to see an exemption on taxes for charities that use additional electricity to help the homeless keep warm.
“We used what we used because that’s what we do. To penalize us extra because we use a lot of electricity, when it’s on behalf of the homeless … maybe charities should be exempt from taxes,” Barnetson said.
Because most of those who attend the church are unemployed, the Pastor reached out to friends. He says their donations will help cover the bill.
“A lot of people care about what’s going on down here and want to help out. There is a lot of good will.”
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