Dozens of homeless people staying in hotels in Kamloops and the Okanagan due to COVID-19 - InfoNews

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Dozens of homeless people staying in hotels in Kamloops and the Okanagan due to COVID-19

Kelowna can have more than 50 people a night camping at Recreation Avenue yet it has the fewest beds in the regional available to help the homeless deal with COVID-19.
May 09, 2020 - 2:30 PM

There are almost 200 people in Kamloops and the Okanagan who are being put up in hotel rooms and recreation facilities in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

While many of those are homeless, there are others who just don’t have safe places to quarantine themselves.

“Some hotels are reserved specifically for people who have COVID-19 and need a place to self-isolate while they recover,” states an email from B.C. Housing. “Other spaces are for patients being discharged from hospitals who do not have COVID-19 and who do not need emergency care, but still require ongoing health care, freeing up much needed beds in hospitals.”

The email does not break down how many people are homeless versus those living in vulnerable circumstances, such as couch surfing.

But it does show that, while Kelowna is the largest city in the region, it has the fewest beds available.

It has only 80 spaces available in three sites with 39 currently in use.

The Kelowna Curling Club is being held in reserve with the potential for 40 more spaces. It hasn’t been activated but supplies have been delivered there.

Kelowna has an estimated 150 people sleeping rough, about one-third of which are camping overnight at the Recreation Avenue city-sanctioned campground.

At the other end of the spectrum, Penticton leads the way with 137 available spaces in five sites. Only four of those sites are being used at this time with only 18 spaces being occupied. Penticton has about one-quarter the population of Kelowna.

In addition, the Old Victory Church has been identified as another site in Penticton that can be used but the number of spaces it would create has not been provided.

A 40-space site has been identified for West Kelowna but negotiations have not been completed.

The city with the most people being helped is Vernon. It has 114 spaces with 91 occupied. That includes 70 at the Vernon Curling Club, which is full. The rest are spread over three other sites.

Kamloops has 46 people staying in three sites that can accommodate 60. A fourth site with 50 spaces is not yet being used. Memorial Arena has been identified as a back-up site but the email doesn’t say how many spaces that can provide in addition to the 110 currently secured.

All together, the region has 441 spaces set aside for homeless people and others, out of a province-wide program that currently has 2,475 spaces.

The cost of the Interior program was not provided. An email from B.C. Housing said accounting for the program likely won’t be released until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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