Emergency weather shelters in Kamloops will be operated all winter this year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Emergency weather shelters in Kamloops will be operated all winter this year

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October 25, 2016 - 9:30 AM

KAMLOOPS - Changes will be made to Kamloops' plan for housing homeless people over this winter, with more beds being available through the season.

In the past, emergency weather response shelters in Kamloops were activated in low temperatures. Last year, once the temperature hit -3 Celsius the shelters would be activated but in years previous they wouldn't be activated until -7 C.

Spokesperson for the Canadian Mental Health Association's Kamloops branch, Christa Mullaly said at a committee meeting yesterday, Oct. 24, B.C. Housing has asked for the emergency shelters to be activated starting Nov. 1 and continue for the entire winter.

Emerald Centre, which has 42 shelter beds, has partnered with New Life Mission to meet the challenge. Mullaly says last winter anywhere from 12 to 15 men were turned away from Emerald Centre each night. This year, the plan is to have no one turned away throughout the winter.

New Life will be able to house an additional 25 people in its emergency shelter and Emerald Centre plans on not turning anybody away.

"Nobody that is seeking shelter for the winter will be turned away from Emerald Centre," Mullaly says.

She says the organizations in Kamloops which work with vulnerable people will have a good idea of what numbers to expect in the shelters this winter thanks to the annual homeless account.

Steven Puhallo, manager of the North Shore Business Improvement Association, asked Mullaly to consider creating an "emergency weather service contact," someone who would be available at all times for business owners who find someone out in the cold.

Puhallo suggested the emergency contact could help connect the person to the appropriate shelter so they could stay warm.

Somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent of people who use shelters in Kamloops are from the Interior, Mullaly says, many of them coming from smaller communities outside Kamloops which don't have shelters.

A coordinated team involving the Canadian Mental Health Association, ASK Wellness and the shelters will work on putting more stable people into motel rooms for the winter to free up shelter space. This is part of transitioning people who are more stabilized into permanent housing when it becomes available.

"Is there enough housing? The short answer is no," Mullaly says. "A motel room is not a home."

She says organizations begin setting up discharge plans for homeless people from the moment they get into a shelter.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller says police want to work with organizations to determine how many people will be staying in which motels in the city.

Mullaly says because of the cost of putting clients up in motel rooms, the people chosen will be far enough along on the continuum to recovery. 

"We want to set people up for success," she says. "Nobody does have to stay outside this winter."

Kamloops' annual homeless count numbers are expected to be released in the middle of November and Canada's first youth homeless count, which took place in Kamloops, has wrapped up and the results from that are expected in December.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 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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