New Kamloops homeless drop-in centre, soup kitchen needed within weeks, not months | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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New Kamloops homeless drop-in centre, soup kitchen needed within weeks, not months

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The City of Kamloops and local non-profit groups expect to replace the services of a drop-in support centre and soup kitchen before winter.

That means more than 100 regular clients of The Loop, many of whom are homeless, will lose a service that provides three meals per day and helps connect them with other services or shelter.

Local realtor Brendan Shaw bought The Loop's building this month and is in the process of evicting the non-profit organization.

To go a whole summer without The Loop, however, might be too long for some, including Alfred Achoba with the Kamloops branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"I would say we don't have that time. I would say it needs to be within the next 60 days," Achoba told iNFOnews.ca.

The Loop doesn't strictly serve the homeless population, but it's those people who will be most visible when non-profit's doors are closed and the people who frequent the 405 Tranquille Road location will be dispersed.

Achoba, whose organization runs multiple different services for homeless people in Kamloops, said it's harder to get help to people, and harder for them to cooperate with others, the longer they are disconnected from mental health or housing supports.

"It becomes really challenging when people start to fend for themselves and create camps. I think we need to shy away from that and bring in the solution right away," he said.

"We don't have until the winter. We need to act, basically, within the next 60 days because we could have tent cities."

To replace The Loop, the City, other non-profits and BC Housing are looking to open an "access hub."

It's expected to triage people into other services around the city, but it likely won't open until the winter. The City is also working on an interim service to fill the gap left by The Loop, but it's not clear what that will look like.

The drop-in centre and its operator, Glenn Hilke, have been a thorn in the side of the City for years.

Hilke is an outspoken advocate for people in poverty, pushing authorities to step up their services. It's part of The Loop's mission, he said, which sometimes means ignoring red tape and providing a service themselves. When Kamloops lacked winter shelter beds, The Loop ignored the rules and opened its doors overnight when temperatures dropped until more beds opened.

The Loop is also seen as a nuisance and faces criticism for the shopping carts loaded with people's belongings and loitering in front of the building. It's generated frequent bylaw complaints which have led to thousands in nuisance fees from the City.

"I do recognize that (Hilke is) taking a stand where no one else has, and I think his approach is a call to action for the rest of us to figure out a defence system for the 10 per cent or so who do not fit into the systems we have now," Achoba said.

The Loop is often a last resort for people who are looking for support, taking in people who have been kicked from other shelters or housing sites.

"We may have this access hub, but it doesn't guarantee people will go there or it will meet all their needs. We still need to have the Glenn Hilkes and The Loops and others. While challenging to the community, we still need to have it," Achoba said.

Carmin Mazzotta, who oversees social issues with the City of Kamloops, said BC Housing is looking for a property to host the planned access hub. He didn't say whether any particular sites are being considered.

Achoba said local non-profits are ready as they wait for a site to be chosen.


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