Kelowna's Inn from the Cold will survive, fate of displaced homeless shelter residents not so certain | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna's Inn from the Cold will survive, fate of displaced homeless shelter residents not so certain

Inside the Kelowna Inn From the Cold shelter.
Image Credit: Inn From the Cold
August 01, 2018 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - As far as social service agencies go, Inn from the Cold is the ultimate survivor, somewhat akin to the people it serves.

It’s been almost 20 years now since the operation began in a donated space on the floor of a local a church.

Executive director Jan Shulz isn’t quite sure which one — they moved around a lot back then — but says Inn from the Cold will survive their latest setback, the abrupt announcement they must leave their Sutherland Avenue shelter space by the end of September.

Their office space is separate and isn’t threatened by the lease termination, which itself wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“We’ve known for a while it could happen. To be clear, Inn from the Cold will be around, not matter what shelter space we find,” Shulz says. “It is the nature of the beast. We will adapt.”

More worrying to her is the possibility that 43 highly-vulnerable people — the shelter is full every night, even in the heat of summer — will find themselves back on the street come the end of September if they can’t find a replacement space before then.

Inn from the Cold Society operates the emergency shelter under contract with B.C. Housing but holds no other government contracts, instead relying on “intensive” local fundraising and donations to operate its other programs which include outreach and intensive case management.

Its Sutherland Avenue location was deliberately chosen as being outside the downtown core, although it hasn’t been able to entirely avoid complaints from neighbours and will likely face the objections of some of its new neighbours when it finds a space.

“There is always a portion of the community that is NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) but I have faith we will find someone that can help,” Shulz said. “I find when our backs are really against the wall, that’s when people come out of the woodwork."

Shulz said both B.C. Housing and the City of Kelowna are helping as best they can while the society searches for new space.

For his part, Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrist said the city is concerned about the potential gap in the emergency shelter services but is limited in what in can do to help.

Gilchrist said council last year eased somewhat the barriers to establishing a homeless shelter by increasing the number of construction zones where it is an allowable use.

The city may also be able to help by fast-tracking the permitting process, Gilchrist said, but does not own a suitable space that could be used as a temporary shelter.

“The city is not in the business of being a housing provider nor is it funded or structured to provide that kind of service,” he said.

Gilchrist said there’s some hope that Hearthstone, a 46-unit supportive housing project currently under construction on Commerce Avenue and Heath House, a 50-unit project located near Leathhead Road and Highway 97, will take some of the pressure off the emergency shelters when they open this fall.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald 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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