November 14, 2013 - 10:36 AM
KAMLOOPS – For the many men, women and youth in our community without a home November isn't about preparing for the holiday season or complaining about the cooler temperatures while hugging lattes, it means the nights are getting unbearably cold and serious health risks are in the making.
Kamloops doesn't get very cold compared to many Canadian cities. We average only 24 days annually where we drop below -10 Celsius and only a dozen days where the wind chill hits at least -20 C, but for those without a roof over their head that is more than cold enough to make it nearly impossible to sleep and to pose health risks to those staying outdoors.
The Out of the Cold Program operates out of St. Paul's Cathedral at 360 Nicola Street. They opened their doors for the season just last week and in addition to extreme weather openings (below -7 C), will offer a place to sleep (a mat on the floor) and two hot meals every Wednesday night through the end of March.
Coordinator Sasha Smode has been with the program for five years and says after only opening for half a dozen extreme weather days last year, when the requirement was -10 C the decision was made to change to the -7 C requirement. The beds were full on each of those nights last year and after only one Wednesday opening she is already seeing a lot of fresh traffic at the shelter.
“I'm seeing a lot of new faces this year, and we don't even have the regular guests that come out when it's cold yet,” Smode says. “We had 12 people lined up an hour before we even started last week.”
The co-ed shelter treats everyone as guests, not clients, a difference that draws people in need of a warm, dry place to sleep and a meal to the St. Vincent de Paul program. In an effort to make sure everyone is welcome Smode even brings dogs in to her own home for the night so people can stay the night at the shelter (where dogs are not allowed.)
Volunteers work evening, overnight and early morning shifts at the shelter and help with heating up soup for the guests and preparing hot breakfasts as well. Donations of winter clothing, socks and hygiene products are always welcome as well, Smode says.
The B.C. Government announced up to $1.5 million in funding to more than 80 communities across the province to help make additional shelter spaces available during cold weather. Each community determines when to issue an extreme weather alert and how many spaces to make available. This is the only funding the Out of the Cold Program receives from the government, and it doesn't cover all the costs, according to Smode.
“We're a low cost, basic, minimal shelter in the basement of a church,” she says, adding that donations and volunteers are what keep them going.
In Kamloops 45 emergency shelter beds receive provincial funding and are available year-round through Emerald House and Emerald Hostel.
To donate items or your time, contact Smode at SashaSmode@hotmail.com or at 250-320-2005.
To contact a reporter for this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013