Cold feet, not just cold weather delays opening of West Kelowna emergency shelter - InfoNews

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Cold feet, not just cold weather delays opening of West Kelowna emergency shelter

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/West Kelowna Shelter Society
January 14, 2020 - 3:24 PM

As temperatures plummeted this week, the West Kelowna Shelter Society did its best to keep the homeless warm at night while waiting for two trailers to arrive so a winter shelter could be set up on Stevens Road.

Staff was hired and trained to operate the new facility after it was approved by West Kelowna council on Dec. 19 and expected to open around Jan. 3, Debra Fuller, a front line worker with the shelter society, told iNFOnews.ca today, Jan. 14.

“We got approved with the licensing to go ahead and go there (Stevens Road), then the property owner, for a bit there, backed out so we were at a loss as to where we were going to put it,” she said. “There was so much pushback from the businesses down there. I think that’s why the owner of the property got a bit worried.”

His concern was that it would become permanent.

The shelter society opened an emergency winter shelter last year on Brown Road. Instead of closing in March 2019, it has continued to operate as transitional housing, waiting for supportive housing to become available.

It seems the owner of the Stevens Road property was worried that same might happen there.

“Once Rosemary (Weighill, the society’s president) explained that we were just having temporary containers brought out, it wasn’t like we were building a building and we would pull it out of there at the end of March, he was good with it,” Fuller said.

Still, that delayed the project.

Two trailers containing washroom, shower and laundry facilities were set up on the site but two larger trailers were delayed in the Lower Mainland last week because of heavy snowfall on the Coquihalla Highway. They’re expected to arrive this week.

While B.C. Housing has said it could be the end of the month before the new shelter opens, Fuller said they have all the beds and other supplies on hand and the staff trained so expects it should only take a couple of days to open once the trailers arrive.

In the meantime, there are 10 mats available at the Brown Road facility from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. with some meals provided.

Only seven or eight mats have been used each night. Some beds were available in the temporary housing spaces so some of the people needing shelter have moved into those beds, Fuller said.

A couple of West Kelowna homeless people did go to Kelowna when mats became available there but returned once they learned there were similar facilities in West Kelowna, she added.


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