Don't expect ice at Memorial Arena until more shelter space open in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Don't expect ice at Memorial Arena until more shelter space open in Kamloops

The Memorial Arena in Kamloops is set to continue as an emergency shelter indefinitely until another space becomes available.

The Memorial Arena in Kamloops is set to continue as an emergency shelter indefinitely until another space becomes available.

When the lease between the City of Kamloops and B.C. Housing to continue a temporary shelter space was signed in a closed council meeting on July 20, there was no end date attached. According to chief administrative officer David Trawin, the City and B.C. Housing will continue to seek a new shelter space but the arena will continue as needed until that is done.

Councillor Bill Sarai was tight-lipped about matters discussed within the closed meeting, but he did say the decision was supported unanimously with the insistence that the City would pressure B.C. Housing to "expedite efforts to find another location."

Reasons for closed council meetings can include legal and land use agreements, or negotiations with higher levels of government, Trawin said.

When emergency spaces are needed, recreation facilities are sought first because of the space and built-in amenities like washrooms, according to Sarai, but the City is hesitant to invest further into shelter spaces on their own.

"My fear is once we as a City start doing that, B.C. Housing will walk away... We have to be really careful about what we provide as a City," Sarai said. "It's a juggling act."

READ MORE: Kamloops Curling Club temporary shelter to close

According to city councillor Dale Bass, the City is working with B.C. Housing to find suitable alternatives, while also working with nearby communities, like Chase, to find additional ice space for adult hockey players.

She added that it will be important to make sure there is enough ice time available within Kamloops for younger players.

The lease with B.C. Housing was extended with no end date due to the closure of the curling arena as a shelter and a pressing need for shelter space in Kamloops.

Services for the homeless and mental health supports are a provincial responsibility, but the City will partner where they can, Sarai said.

"Anything a municipality takes on on their own, the province will cut funding on that. I'm not willing to do that because once we start doing something, whether it's a detox centre or mental health workers... I can guarantee you the provincial government will back off and we're stuck with it," Sarai said.

While the City awaits B.C. Housing to find more emergency shelter space for homeless individuals in Kamloops, two new day-use sites are on the way with the main purpose of streamlining people into shelters rather than allowing them to sleep outside.

READ MORE: Fire at old Kelowna church fuels debate about homeless people who shelter there

Those day use sites, The Gathering Place on West Victoria Street and Envision on Campbell Avenue, were slated to be open for four months, but Coun. Bass added its possible they will extend hours and expand usage if an outdoor shelter space is necessary.

"This is a work in progress. We're trying everything out to see what works," she said.

While she acknowledged sports and sports facilities are important for the community, having an emergency shelter space available can be a life or death situation for those that need it. Making sure shelter space is available will take precedence before ice space for hockey teams, Bass said.

The Memorial Arena shelter, operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, expanded its bed space to 50 in order to make up for lost space at the Kamloops Curling Club. But that still leaves the city short 20 from what was previously available, and 90 beds short across the city to account for the 222 homeless individuals identified in the 2021 Point in Time count.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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