Kamloops homeless shelters shifting into a pandemic winter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops homeless shelters shifting into a pandemic winter

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November 19, 2020 - 1:30 PM

With winter just around the corner and COVID-19 cases rising, the main priority for Kamloops shelters this year is to get as much of the homeless population inside as safely as possible.

Physical distancing protocols mean limited shelter capacity, but organizations are doing what they can to get homeless people in from the cold.

"We can’t really go up to capacity, and so we’ve had to figure out innovative ways to bring people indoors while still maintaining social distancing guidelines," Alfred Achoba, Kamloops operations manager of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Kamloops, told iNFOnews.ca.

READ MORE: Changes to Kamloops shelter policies to entice homeless population indoors

He said they're looking at potential strategies to safely increase their numbers in the future, such as utilizing more plexiglass shields.   

In the meantime, they're doing the best they can with the space they have by educating clients on proper sanitization and pandemic protocols.

Currently Kamloops has three shelters: the Emerald Centre, which has 40 beds, the Mustard Seed with 20 beds and a temporary shelter on Royal Avenue which has 25 beds.   

In the next few weeks, the Royal Avenue shelter will be relocated from the North Shore to the Memorial Arena downtown. 

"Moving to Memorial Arena will give us more space to be able to increase our numbers, while still maintaining social distancing," Achoba said.

The new shelter will have space for 50 beds, twice as many as the current Royal Avenue location.

"The hope is that we can safely move everyone there," he said.

This includes those who have been accessing the Royal Avenue facility, as there won't be another shelter on the North Shore to replace it — they'll all be downtown.

Whether or not this will cause any issues remains to be seen. Achoba said that it's up to the City to determine if there is a need for a shelter on the North Shore, and the CMHA and stakeholders will address it accordingly.

"We’re just focusing on one area," he said. "We are working to ensure that anyone who needs shelter, wherever they are in town, are able to get there safely."


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