Controversial Kamloops warming shelter now offering 24 hour service | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Partly Cloudy  3.6°C

Kamloops News

Controversial Kamloops warming shelter now offering 24 hour service

Kamloops homeless outreach centre, The Loop, is keeping their doors open 24 hours a day as a cold snap sets in over the city in December 2021.

As temperatures stay below freezing in Kamloops and emergency shelters meet capacity, a local outreach organization has stepped up and brought in mats for people to sleep on overnight.

The Loop is known along Tranquille Road as a day space for vulnerable people, along with the base of operations for the COVID Meal Train, but some of a new $40,000 grant is being repurposed to staff it overnight.

Vicki Reesor, the life and peer skills program coordinator for The Loop, said they have kept the doors open since Christmas, and they plan to continue.

On the first night, 12 mats were set out and on Dec. 27, 21 people stayed overnight.

"The funding helping us stay open 24 hours right now is from Provincial Health Services," Reesor said. "It's part of their overdose prevention mandate. We got a grant from them to run a pilot project using peer engagement to try and prevent overdoses in the community."

READ MORE: Extreme cold warnings issued for Kamloops, Shuswap, Similkameen

Temperatures in Kamloops have plummeted to below -20 Celsius for multiple days due to an Arctic front passing through B.C.

Emergency shelters have been increasing their efforts, but a shortage of beds combined with public health restrictions has left some service providers with no option but to turn some people away.

Not including The Loop, there are 153 emergency beds in Kamloops, but there are an estimated 206 people without permanent shelter in the city, according to the most recent Point in Time count.

The Loop has a rocky history with the City of Kamloops and with local residents, but so far there's been little push back to shutdown their 24 hour operation.

"I think we're going to be allowed to step up as long as we need to," Reesor.

Over the summer, The Loop operated as a day space for people who are homeless, but it was also seen as a nuisance and a hive for unwanted activity in the area, so Reesor said they have implemented more policies to keep their clients inside to avoid attention from the neighbourhood.

READ MORE: Extreme cold forces some lift closures at Kamloops, Okanagan ski resorts

They are also staffing more people to help, including their clients.

"Some of our guests really want to help, and they seem to be in much better spirits when they have something to do," Reesor said, which is what the new grant aims to do.

Her grant proposal was to fund a program that would help train some of their clients in first aid training and outreach work, so people with lived experience with substance use and homelessness can support peers.

While some of that $40,000 will be used to staff the 24 hour operations, the rest will go directly to the program until it runs out in March 2022.

On Tuesday afternoon, The Loop was bustling with activity, with around a dozen people inside conversing, eating and looking for clothing donations so they can stay warm outside. Volunteers were busy preparing food for their clients.

Produce from Fresh Street Market sits at The Loop on Dec. 29, 2021, as volunteers work to prepare more food for their clients, while finding space to store the rest.
Produce from Fresh Street Market sits at The Loop on Dec. 29, 2021, as volunteers work to prepare more food for their clients, while finding space to store the rest.

READ MORE: Kelowna school board chair may be the most harassed in B.C. by anti-vaxers

Heather McDonald, a volunteer, said they've been getting a constant stream of donations from the community including clothing and food.

"We have mats, we have blankets — we could always use more. And we have hot chocolate and food available 24 hours a day," The Loop volunteer, Heather McDonald said. "There's such a need for this kind of thing, especially in this weather. It's impossible to turn people away. How can you?"

Crates of produce was delivered this morning from local grocery store Fresh Street Market, and McDonald said others often contribute too. While the produce delivery is pushing the limits of their fridges and freezers, McDonald isn't worried. She was happy to say they have a constant stream of donations coming through they're doors and they are always open to more food and clothing.

Much of the activity was restricted to the inside of the building, which resembles a diner until the tables are moved in the evening to make way for bed space.

McDonald said she has heard very little from Kamloops Community Service officers, formerly called bylaw officers, who mostly have dropped by to ask that snow is shovelled from the nearby sidewalks.

She said city workers have said nothing about The Loop continuing as a drop in centre this winter.

The cold snap is expected to continue in Kamloops until Jan. 1, when Environment Canada forecasts the weather will warm to -8 C.

Reesor said The Loop will continue their 24 hour operations as long as dangerously cold weather persists, but because their business license does not allow them to operate as a shelter, they will not continue any longer than is deemed necessary.

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.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2021

  • Popular penticton News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile