Only one emergency winter shelter in Kamloops, Okanagan will close next week | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Only one emergency winter shelter in Kamloops, Okanagan will close next week

McCurdy Place supportive housing for the homeless opened this week in Kelowna, just before one of the city's emergency winter shelters was scheduled to close, meaning more people will be able to keep a roof over their heads.
March 28, 2021 - 3:00 PM

March 31 is the traditional date for emergency winter shelters to close for homeless people in B.C., often leaving many without places to sleep indoors.

That’s not likely to be an issue in Kamloops or the Okanagan this year with many shelters planning to keep running. Most are doing that voluntarily but there is controversy about the process in Penticton.

Only one shelter, the Welcome Inn in Kelowna, will actually close for sure next week.

“We wanted to avoid what we typically had every spring which is a mass exodus of people onto the streets,” Stephanie Ball, executive director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society told iNFOnews.ca.

Journey Home is a non-profit agency set up to bring the city to “functional zero homelessness” by 2024.

The Welcome Inn, which had 39 beds, will close next week as planned since the Metro Church, which had operated it over the past two winters, wants to modify its programs to serve more than just the homeless.

It will, however, continue to operate a “hygiene centre” for the homeless.

It has scaled down to 15 people living there, helped by the opening of the McCurdy Road supportive housing facility with 49 rooms earlier this week.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Controversial Kelowna supporting housing complex set to open

Ball is working with the Kelowna Gospel Mission in an effort to keep their temporary shelter in the old Kelowna Courier building open through next winter.

She won’t have confirmation until next week on how long it will continue to operate but expects it will be open after March 31.

Vernon-based Turning Points Collective opened a shelter on Richter Street in Kelowna this winter. It was not an emergency winter shelter but was tied to the province’s efforts to deal with COVID. It will continue operating for some time yet, executive director Randine Wejer told iNFOnews.ca.

Turning Points also has a shelter in Vernon, which is designed to continue on past March 31.

The Kamloops shelter is scheduled to stay open "based on the needs of the community," which means at least through the fall, Alfred Achoba, acting director of the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kamloops that operates the shelter, told iNFOnews.ca.

It was always the plan to try to keep Kelowna shelters running as much as possible past March 31, Ball said.

“B.C. Housing worked with a continuation mindset when they worked with businesses and operators to say: 'Look, we’re looking at least at March 31 but we want to know where your capacity is to support continuation if the need is there,'” Ball said. “My understanding was that part of the site selection criteria that went into some of these projects was the ability to entertain future discussions as long as the model was working and it wasn’t impacting the community.”

That may have been B.C. Housing’s desire in Penticton as well but that ran into opposition from city councillors who refused to extend a temporary use permit beyond March 31. The province has used special powers to override the city and plans to keep it open.

READ MORE: Penticton council not backing down against province on emergency shelter

Agencies in Kelowna do a count of people sleeping rough every morning. There were 10 empty beds in shelters on Wednesday morning this week.

Of 22 people outside Wednesday morning, eight were camped at a City of Kelowna designated camping space on Baillie Avenue. Another 13 were seen on the streets in the downtown area, although not all may have slept outside that night, Ball said. They might just have risen early and joined their friends on the street.

That means, when the Welcome Inn closes next week, most of the homeless who want to sleep indoors will likely have beds.


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