Kelowna News

Okanagan shelters bulk up resources for homeless as cold weather hits

Bronzon Paul is one of the homeless on Leon Avenue in Kelowna who would welcome a winter shelter bed.

With temperatures dropping across the Okanagan, homeless shelters are adding additional resources to ensure no one is left out in the cold.

Sue Wheeler, social development manager with the City of Kelowna, said a warming station and 32 additional mats have been added at shelters across the city, 12 at Cornerstone on Leon Avenue and 20 at the Salvation Army on Sutherland Avenue.

The Journey Home Task Force, B.C. Housing, Interior Health and other non-profits have been working together to roll out cold-weather resources, she said.

Metro Central on St. Paul Street is operating as a warming centre and hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the exception of Sundays from 1 to 9 p.m.

The Kelowna RCMP and volunteers have also been looking for people to assist them to the warming centre, Wheeler said.

Shelters have been operating at full capacity at 555 Fuller Avenue, which is currently operated by the John Howard Society.

Welcome Inn, a weather emergency shelter that opened Jan. 3, is at full capacity with 40 beds, Wheeler said.

There are currently 288 shelter beds available in Kelowna.

The biggest challenge, Wheeler said, is not enough staff.

Shelters have been operating at full capacity prior to the winter months. “It’s a situation not unique to Kelowna. It’s a situation seen across Canada,” she said.

The Journey Home Task Force is focusing on a short term emergency plan for winter to have a response plan for the next year.

In West Kelowna, the West Kelowna Shelter Society will be adding 10 overflow mats at the Brown Road temporary housing site starting Jan. 13. These mats will be available until the new Stevens Road shelter is operational. The shelter trailers will arrive later this week, according to Matthew Borghese, senior communications advisor with B.C. Housing.

In Penticton, Compass House is providing additional mats beyond the 55 beds that B.C. Housing currently funds,” according to CEO Tony Laing of the Penticton And District Society for Community Living. Currently the shelter is operating at full capacity with 74 people. Compass House is a 30-bed, 24/7 temporary shelter. As of Nov. 1, 2019, B.C. Housing has also been funding 25 additional temporary spaces at Compass House. These 20 beds will remain open during the winter months until March 31, 2020.

Vernon’s Gateway Supportive Shelter has already added an additional 20 beds to its 40 since the beginning of winter, and will add another five as temperatures continue to drop, said program coordinator Oye Nola.

“They’re pretty much full as we speak,” he said.

—This story was corrected at 10:27 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan 14 to adjust the number of beds available in Kelowna.

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