Cold weather fills Kamloops's homeless shelters to capacity | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Cold weather fills Kamloops's homeless shelters to capacity

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
February 09, 2021 - 3:02 PM

The cold snap is squeezing capacity at Kamloops's homeless shelters which are all now full, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

To meet the growing demand, a temporary shelter is opening tonight at the Memorial Arena with another 50 beds in addition to the 110 that are currently occupied.

"(We're) hearing many people are going to the emergency room at the hospital, have no place to go," CMHA Kamloops interim executive director Alfred Achoba says.

He says that's one of the reasons why they are activating the temporary shelter to provide more beds.

CMHA officials have been working to ensure the Memorial Arena site is ready for new, temporary facilities, pending approval from City authorities including the fire department.

It will serve as an overflow to Kamloops's other shelters, the Mustard Seed, curling club and Emerald Centre locations.

Achoba says the Memorial Arena site is a cold-weather operation, and will be closed once the weather warms. Residents will be then moved to the other shelters.

He doesn't anticipate a lack of beds when the Memorial Arena site is shuttered.

"(Some) people make a choice to stay outside. They may come in just because of the cold. Usually we see that trend, they then go out to camp later on may not need shelter through the year," Achoba says.

Despite being at 100% capacity, he says no one has been turned away so far, and he's extending a welcome to anyone suffering during the cold snap.

"We want them to know, if they are seeking a place, they are outside, come. You can come here."

Meanwhile, the toll of COVID-19, Achoba says, has been "huge across the board."

While the CMHA had to reduce the size of the Emerald Centre location, he says a number of protocols have been successful in keeping the virus out of their shelters so far.

"Masks, wash hands frequently, keep social distance between you and your neighbours... they work in our favour: no outbreaks or any COVID patients," he says.

Their measures also include isolation areas, which remain unused at this point.

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