People in riverside encampments 'encouraged' to use Kamloops shelters as river rises | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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People in riverside encampments 'encouraged' to use Kamloops shelters as river rises

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
April 27, 2021 - 6:00 AM

As the Thompson River continues to rise, the City of Kamloops is warning homeless campers along the river to find safer accommodations.

The river has risen by about a metre over the last month and threatens people living in designated locations for temporary encampments.

Glen Hilke with The Loop says outreach groups like his are working to "nudge" homeless individuals to make use of shelters like the Memorial Arena facility.

"I don't know if there will be enough beds, but the thing about shelters is it's a day-to-day experience," Hilke said, noting that an individual may break protocol at the CMHA-run facility, leaving them banned anywhere from two weeks to six months.

"I've proposed The Loop to be a low-barrier, last resort shelter, but the city won't have it," he said.

The Thompson River was at nearly 3.1 metres Monday and is expected to climb above 4 metres by May 5, according to forecast models.

This time last year, the Thompson River was slightly higher than it is now, at 3.2 metres, continuing steadily until It peaked at 7.8 metres on June 28.

However, snowpack in the North and South Thompson Basins are around normal, at 103% and 100%, respectively while last year, snowpack in each river basin was 117% and 123% at this time.

John Tyler has been living in camps in Kamloops for two years. He says he knows of about ten camps along the river, but he prefers to stay on the North Shore.

He has a particular place on the beach where he says the sand is great to sleep in. Plus, it's close to The Loop, where he frequents.

"It's beautiful to sleep in. Even if I don't have blankets, it's comfortable and I can easily dig a hole to have a fire safely," Tyler said.

He says he's been watching the river "surge" this week, and he saw the water nearly take a tent downstream.

Tyler usually avoids shelters, but he used The Branch last year while flooding rose. 

Last year, there were around 40 beds at The Branch shelter, which was used when river waters rose last year.

Since its closure, the Memorial Arena temporary shelter has taken its place, which is run by CMHA.

CMHA could not be reached to comment on whether they will have enough beds as the waters rise again this year.

City staff have been receiving increasing calls about encampments and messes along the river, with 329 calls for service to 'social issues and/or camp clean ups' from January 1 to April 1.

There were 180 calls to Bylaw last year and 117 in 2019.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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