As temperatures plummet, Kelowna looking for more shelter space | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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As temperatures plummet, Kelowna looking for more shelter space

FILE PHOTO - Kelowna's Gospel Mission is one of the shelters keeping homeless people in Kelowna off the streets as temperatures drop.

Even though temperatures plummeted to at least -15C overnight in Kelowna, some people still chose to sleep rough.

The daily “point in time” count of homeless in Kelowna found five people who had slept outdoors overnight, Stephanie Ball, executive director of the Journey Home Society told today, Feb. 9.

Ball recognizes that Kelowna is a big city and not everyone who slept outdoors is found by people doing the count. She estimates the number of people without shelter was actually around 10 to 12.

“We’re exploring capacity to add additional matts in spaces when we have extreme weather, as well as identifying spaces that can be used as overnight warming centres,” she said. “Some people may still choose to stay outside but need somewhere to access 24/7 to provide somewhere to warm up, to use washroom facilities and those kinds of things. We’re looking at a blend of both. Even though our numbers are very low, we want to make sure we have all the capacity we need in case there are more people out there than we know.”

There are 265 shelter beds and 10 were vacant last night. Most of those vacancies were in female-only locations so there may not have been space for everyone if they had all wanted to move indoors.

There is no emergency winter shelter in West Kelowna, as there was last year. Some homeless people have been put up in motels and others, Ball speculated, may cross over the Bennett bridge in order to find shelter in Kelowna.

Some people who are sleeping rough may not think there are spaces for them, some may have had bad experiences in shelters in the past while others may choose to stay “off the grid” no matter how cold it gets, Ball said in explaining why everyone wasn’t seeking indoor shelter.

The forecast for Kelowna is for continued cold with overnight temperatures dropping to -21 Celsius later this week.

The City still maintains a homeless campsite on Baillie Avenue where three to five people have been sleeping lately, though Ball said no one was there last night.

Journey Home is a society that is trying to bring homelessness in the city to functionally zero by 2024.

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