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Cold weather good news for Penticton's homeless

Cheers the Church operates as an overnight shelter for the homeless in Penticton when temperatures drop below minus seven degrees Celsius.
December 03, 2014 - 7:28 PM

PENTICTON - Marnie Verge, President of the Penticton Lighthouse Low Barrier Shelter Society said last week’s meeting seeking people interested in creating a low barrier shelter in Penticton went “extremely well.”

“Even the new mayor showed up,” she said, pleased by the support shown by the new council.

Verge said Mayor Jakubeit offered to help the group seek higher levels of funding once they put together a pilot program.

“We were really happy to see him,” she said, “ he was patient and interested.”

Verge said 14 members of the public also attended the meeting. The society intends to tour a gospel mission in Kelowna as well as a low barrier shelter in Vernon on December 20 to find out “what works and what doesn’t."

“Then we’ll have a discussion as to what to do,” said Verge, adding the group will “start small.”

“We hope the province and federal government will help us out,” she said. “It costs $80,000 a year to put someone in jail, and $1,000 to $1,500 a day to treat someone in hospital.

“If the homeless don’t have these shelters, the above alternatives could be quite expensive. We know what the numbers are.”

Verge said weather like the cold temperatures currently being experienced in Penticton is actually good news for people on the street.

“That’s when the Cold Snap Inn can open up,” she said, “and then they have a place to get out of the cold.”

After last week’s heavy snowfall, many of the city’s homeless became wet, but because it stayed warm, the Cold Snap Inn didn’t open (Government rules stipulate the shelter, located at 639 Main Street, cannot open until the temperature drops below minus seven degrees Celsius.)  With nowhere to go, many can become ill from being constantly wet and cold.

The Cold Snap Inn is operated by the Salvation Army and the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society.  The shelter is housed in Cheers the Church and opens at 8 p.m. every evening the temperatures drop below minus seven.

“We had six people use the shelter on December 1, and we’ve ranged between two and 10," Executive Director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society, Linda Sankey said. “We operated seven days in November prior to this last cold spell, and have been open since this one began on November 28."

Guests of the shelter are allowed to stay from 8 p.m until 7 a.m the following day. They are provided with a warm meal upon arrival, have the use of shower and laundry facilities, and are given a meal on departure. Pajamas are provided to those who need to have all their clothing laundered.

“We’ve had youths under 19, up to a 73-year-old we had this weekend,” Sankey said, “and every age in between - both genders.”

Sankey said that provisions have also been made for those with pets.

B.C Housing provides the funds for the shelter, which is staffed by the Salvation Army, who draw from a list of casual trained staff. The SOSBIS provides outreach services and helps those using the shelter to find other housing, in addition to administering the Cold Snap Inn.

“Last year the temperature threshold for opening the shelter was minus 10,” said Sankey, “we’ve had many come in with health issues, who wouldn’t survive without it.” Sankey said the Cold Snap Inn could find room for up to 20 homeless should the need arise.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.


News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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