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Penticton shelters working overtime this week

Compass House has added 20 extra temporary spaces to cope with an additional influx of homeless in Penticton after temperatures dropped earlier this week.
January 14, 2020 - 6:30 PM

Penticton’s homeless are finding shelter this week as the province and city non-profits deal with the coldest weather of the season so far.

Temperatures began falling Sunday evening, dropping to a low of -15.1 Celsius overnight Monday.

The cold arctic air has been accompanied by bone-chilling wind chills that make it feel five degrees colder.

Ask Wellness Society Executive Director Bob Hughes says this week’s cold weather is unique in the past few years, in terms of the depth of cold and potential for freezing or frostbite if out in the cold too long.

The society looks after the Fairhaven Supportive Housing project on Skaha Lake Road and the newly-opened Burdock House social housing complex on Winnipeg Street.

Last night, Burdock House opened its doors to 22 non-residents who stayed inside the building all night.

“The Compass Court shelter was into triple digits, drowning in people so we made the decision at 3:45 p.m. yesterday to take on the overload,” Hughes says.

Today, the Ask Wellness society is collaborating with the South Okanagan Brain Injury Society and Oasis Church to create 24/7 warming stations in Burdock House, Fairhaven and Oasis Church to try and ensure “nobody dies outside in the next three days."

B.C. Housing media relations manager Laura Mathews says Penticton’s Compass House shelter has not turned anyone in need of a warm place to stay away, but the policy has resulted in the shelter providing additional mats beyond the 50 beds B.C. Housing currently funds.

Mathews said in an email statement issued today, Jan. 14, B.C. Housing is assessing whether there is a need for additional shelter space in Penticton.

Compass House is a 30 bed temporary shelter open 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the former Super 8 Motel complex on Main Street.

The facility is operated by the Penticton and District Society for Community Living.

B.C. Housing has been providing 20 additional temporary spaces at the shelter since Nov. 1, 2019. The additional beds will remain open for the duration of the winter until March 31, 2020.

South Okanagan Women in Need Society harm reduction manager Cleo Neville says the society has extended its hours at the women’s drop in centre from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., until 6 p.m. this week to provide a warm place for their clients.

“We’re doing dinners with the idea the Compass House shelter opens at 6:30 p.m., giving the folks a warm place until the shelter opens up and they can get a bed for the night,” Neville says.

The centre’s program is geared to connecting with marginalized women in the community who are experiencing such things as homelessness, substance use, or relying on sex work for survival. It’s a referral program and the location of the centre is kept private.

“Demand has been strong. We’ve definitely been quite busy, and the extended hours have been well received,” says Neville.

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