Kamloops Curling Club temporary shelter to close | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops Curling Club temporary shelter to close

The sublease with B.C. Housing to use the Kamloops Curling Club as a temporary shelter is coming to a close, which was hosting 40 beds for the homeless.
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July 30, 2021 - 6:00 PM

The Kamloops Curling Club temporary shelter is closing as the sublease with B.C. Housing expires, but the City will be expanding space at the Memorial Arena next door to compensate.

The added beds, however, still don't make up for the loss in space at the curling club.

Canadian Mental Health Association operates both shelters, where there have been 40 beds at the curling club and 30 at Memorial Arena. A newly added capacity at the Memorial Arena to 50 beds will still leave CMHA short of 20 beds to make up for the lost space.

"The goal is that no one is displaced into street homelessness. I can't stress enough that we are working with B.C. Housing actively to identify other shelter locations, but we have to take into a count a range of things like access to transit, services and the community impact. That adds to the complexity of identifying shelter locations," Carmin Mazzotta said, who is the social, housing and community development manager for the City of Kamloops.

While the closure presents a need to add more temporary shelter beds in Kamloops, the City recently announced a plan to open two new day spaces for people experiencing homelessness.

Those day spaces, which will operate through partnerships with multiple social service agencies, are opening to not just give anyone homeless a space to spend their day without loitering in public spaces, but they are also meant to connect people with shelters, permanent housing or other services.

Mazzotta is confident that with the loss of bed space, B.C. Housing and other non-profit agencies will be able to locate enough beds around the city to make up for the lost space and avoid displacing any people who stay there.

"Right now, they have a space at the curling club where they've built relationships and trust with staff. It's going be a disruptive moment for them, potentially. That's something we have to be mindful of as well," Mazzotta said.

Executive director of CMHA Kamloops, Alfred Achoba, worries for the clients who could be displaced as the beds are moved out of the Kamloops Curling Club.

"It is confusing. Not just for the community, but also for the clients," Achoba said. "I think as a community it would be a failure to displace 40 people. It's going to be a really hard conversation to have. It's a tough situation to tell people that we have no shelter for them."

Mazzotta said that during the latest Point in Time count in April 2021, 222 homeless individuals were surveyed in Kamloops, some of whom do stay at shelters, but many do not.

Part of that is because there are just 130 beds available in the city for them.

While the City and B.C. Housing actively seek new temporary shelter locations in Kamloops, Mazzotta is looking forward to seeing the day spaces open, which is expected in early August.

He said the collaboration between multiple agencies should help move people on into not just housing, but whatever other social service assistance they may need, including mental health supports.

While there are multiple crises that non-profits and the City of Kamloops are facing, including wildfires evacuations, housing affordability and the opioid crisis, the coordination between those agencies should help build a "continuum of care" that will work to keep people housed, whether it's a temporary shelter, supportive housing or subsidized housing, according to Mazzotta.

The lease with B.C. Housing to continue use of the Memorial Arena was recently extended, with support of the city council, according to a media release from the City of Kamloops.

“To return Memorial Arena to recreational use without an alternative shelter location would result in many people being displaced into unsheltered street homelessness, which is not an option,” Mayor Ken Christian said in the release.

The lease will continue until an alternate shelter is found in Kamloops.

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