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Penticton woman continues feeding homeless despite threats

Penticton homeless advocate Shayla Doble with street entrenched friend, Bob.
Penticton homeless advocate Shayla Doble with street entrenched friend, Bob.

A woman in Penticton is handing out hot food to the homeless despite getting unsavoury feedback from some people in the community.

Shayla Doble has been doing the volunteer work to help her community for at least five years now, rain or shine, all year round.

“We go out about three times per week unless the weather is really awful and we are more in need,” she said.

Doble packs her SUV with hot soups and drinks, blankets and warm clothes and takes to the streets at least three nights per week.

She said the number of people she is serving on Penticton’s streets this winter is similar to the last one, but so far the weather has been more forgiving. It's the surrounding community that is less forgiving. 

“There is definitely a different vibe within the community I think in response to an increase in crime,” she said. “Some community members threatened me to stop feeding the homeless, a lot of people voiced the need for me to stop, it is sad. Just because someone made mistakes in their lives it doesn’t mean they should go hungry.”

READ MORE: How Penticton's homeless people cope at -20 C at night

Doble said she stopped posting her advocacy activities on social media four months ago and has been doing her rounds and collecting donations more quietly. A lot of the cost of her advocacy work comes out of her own pocket, but Doble said it is worth it.

“It is a cause I hold dear to my heart,” she said. “My brother has been homeless and I’m not sure he would have survived without help. Just know someone out there is someone’s brother or child. They are nice people. Some fell on bad times, some have lost their way or they are just trying to sort things out.”

Shayla Doble regularly drives her SUV around Penticton to offer food and clothing to the less fortunate.
Shayla Doble regularly drives her SUV around Penticton to offer food and clothing to the less fortunate.

Doble is supported by a small team that helps collect donations and a high school student who volunteers with her night time outreaches. She said the Hotel Penticton keeps the doors to their lobby open as a place for people to drop off donations of food, in one bin, and warm clothing in another.

“We give hot chocolate and a warm meal and warm layering,” Doble said. “It is really about stopping and listening and building a connection. Sometimes they (homeless people) feel hopeless and just need someone to listen to them.” 

Doble said over the years she has never interacted with someone who is ungrateful for her efforts.

“I’ve had people cry they were so vulnerable and share their whole story,” she said. “With mental health there have been times when they have been skeptical. 95% of people respond with joy. What I find interesting is that they are very giving as well, I don’t find a lot of greed. It is cool to see how they take care of each other.”

READ MORE: Decades of downloading on cities led to homelessness in Kamloops, Okanagan today: report

Doble said so far this winter the temperatures have been warmer and easier to deal with than last winter, other than a spell of cold and snow around the beginning of November.

“Last year we were hit with really cold temperatures, so all of us outreach organizations are preparing,” she said. “It is the wind chill that gets us and cold wet air off the lakes.”

Even on a frigid night in Penticton, people who have been assigned a warm bed at one of the shelters still choose to spend their time outside.

“I talked to our emergency warming centre and they have 30 beds, they haven’t turned anyone away, but you are always going to have individuals that don’t want to go into a shelter,” she said. “For some people it is from past trauma or they don’t trust falling asleep with anyone close to them for mental health reasons. There might be someone in that warming shelter they owe money to.”

Doble and her small team are in need of blankets that tend to get cold and wet quickly, although they are seeking a place to get the blankets cleaned and dried regularly. They need bigger sized coats to allow for layering, and mittens and gloves.

They are in need of tarps for people living on the streets to keep their belongings dry, as well as food items, and disposable spoons, cups and bowls.

Donations can be dropped off at Hotel Penticton on 95 Westminster Avenue, which is open 24 hours every day.

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