Advocate for homeless says wrap-around services is the solution for Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Advocate for homeless says wrap-around services is the solution for Kamloops

Human services advocate Tanya Spahmann (standing) with a service user, Erika Stefan, who used The Loop resource center in Kamloops before it was closed down earlier this year.

As the weather is getting colder, a long-time advocate for marginalized members of the city of Kamloops is speaking out about the homelessness crisis and need for wrap-around services.

Tanya Spahmann sits on the board of the Out of The Cold program that provides support for the homeless during the hottest and coldest parts of the year. She is currently in her third year of the social work program at Thompson Rivers University.

Spahmann said she hopes the City will prioritize the provision of wrap-around services for the marginalized population before focussing on providing affordable housing.

“The city is ignoring the social problem, which is the more pressing problem, and which is informed by people experiencing homelessness co-occurring with mental health and addictions,” she said. “We need to get the social problem addressed as a humanitarian priority and move on from there to the affordable housing need.”

Councillor Arjun Singh said he doesn’t like pitting one issue against another.

“We need to do both,” he said. “I agree we need these services. It breaks my heart that we are in the situation we are in right now. I have never seen council work this hard for positive change on the social issues side. We are all frustrated things have not happened faster or more effectively.”

Singh said the issues of addiction and mental health are complicated and challenging.

“The most addicted folks are typically the hardest to reach to get them to access services,” he said. “Wrap-around services are typically funded by the provincial government. We are looking for a complex care facility and sobering centre and one of the challenges is that staffing isn’t there yet. We are having staffing shortages at the hospital and care homes.”

Spahmann said she is particularly concerned about the homeless population on the North Shore, after volunteering for a year at The Loop resource center before it was shut down in July.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: City of Kamloops revokes The Loop's business license

“Despite the City’s multi-faceted involvement in the social problems on the North Shore, other than outreach there are still no services here for people experiencing homelessness,” Spahmann said. “This has been ongoing since The Loop was shut down as a knee jerk reaction to optics and the much lauded opening of Envision never happened.”

Spahmann said there is a need for a winter shelter on the North Shore.

“If we only have a centre on one side we will need a shuttle service,” Singh said. “The day lodge didn’t go through due to a conflict of interest with a hotel owner. We unfortunately did not foresee that stumbling block. We need to have services on the North Shore and downtown areas. I’m hoping we will start having these discussions earlier in the year, well ahead of cold weather.”

READ MORE: City of Kamloops to announce new 'shelter solutions' in coming weeks

Spahmann envisions a single big, permanent emergency shelter for the marginalized, with intersectional models incorporated and wrap around services provided.

“There should be separate quarters for different levels of need and recovery,” she said. “There should be cultural considerations. It definitely needs to be transitional and low barrier with plenty of staffing. It should include medical, interventional and cultural services.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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