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Changes to Kamloops shelter policies to entice homeless population indoors

October 19, 2020 - 7:00 AM

With more unsanctioned encampments cropping up in Kamloops in recent weeks, area shelters are coming up with ways to get the city's homeless population to pack up and move inside.

After talking with outreach workers, Ty Helgason, project manager for housing and homeless with the city, learned a few things that were causing people to pass over having a roof over their heads.

He'd been told people didn’t have space to put their stuff at the shelters and didn’t want a curfew so that information was passed on to the Canadian Mental Health Association, which operates the Emerald Centre shelter on West Victoria Street and the temporary one on Royal Avenue.

Changing the curfews seems to be working, Helgeson said.

“There was even a camp right behind the temporary shelter on Royal Avenue... and the shelter manager went out and talked to them and told them they’d relaxed the curfew and people actually packed up their camp and moved right into the shelter and have been accessing it since,” he said.

The city is also hoping to expand the mini storage for people at the Emerald Centre and add additional lockers for storage to encourage people to come indoors.

The city relaxed its overnight shelter bylaw during COVID-19, which allows camps to stay erected at certain locations in the city during the day.

“If camps are tidy, if they’re out of the way, if they’re not getting a lot of complaints from the general public, then they don’t have to pack up every morning,” he said.

READ MORE: Free shelter spaces mean no homeless camps planned for Kamloops city parks

However, bylaw officers have been receiving ongoing complaints in the Valleyview area and along Schubert Drive, said Tammy Blundell, bylaw services manager.

At the beginning of September, bylaw officers started to respond to larger camps, so officers began enforcement at the larger camps, she said. On Schubert Drive, there were more than 10 different camps in one area which had more than 10 people, she said.

Kamloops has three shelters, the Emerald Centre, the Mustard Seed, and the temporary shelter on Royal Avenue. The city also can use Memorial Arena as an overflow shelter, but that has yet to be activated.

At Royal Avenue's shelter, there are 25 spaces available and they see an average of 20 people a night, Emerald Centre has a 40-person capacity and sees 35 a night and Mustard Seed is at capacity with about 20 people, Helgason said.

“There have been more problem camps recently and I think that’s partially attributed to the beaches being available again when the rivers were high people tended to disperse and just have sporadic camps throughout the community,” he said.

“Now that they’re returning to the banks along the Shubert, the banks along the north end of the Overlanders Bridge, the banks along Valleyview, as they get back to those areas, they tend to be conglomerating along there… that’s probably why we’re having to address them more now.”

Bylaw officers have been taking outreach workers with them to connect campers with services and shelters, he said.

In September, bylaw services responded to 52 camp complaints. In August, they had 41.


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