British Columbia

Kelowna outreach workers demand temporary shelter as temperatures drop

2 main local shelters currently overcapacity during record cold November

Jaimie Kehler - CBC News

November 09, 2017

Kelowna's Gospel Mission is putting down dozens of extra mats on its dining room floor, but there is not enough room to accommodate those in need. (Jaimie Kehler/ CBC)

Outreach workers in Kelowna are expressing a need for an extreme weather temporary shelter as demand reaches "crisis" levels during record-breaking cold November temperatures.

The city's two main homeless shelters — Kelowna's Gospel Mission and Inn From the Cold — are struggling to keep up with demand as people in need seek a warm place to sleep.

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"We've been quite surprised and concerned about the number of people that need shelter," said Randy Benson, executive director of Kelowna's Gospel Mission.

Kelowna recently broke a record with overnight temperatures in the first week of November dropping to -11.5 degrees.

Benson said the shelter has been putting dozens of additional mats down on the dining room floor, but every morning there are still people found sleeping outside.

Inn From the Cold has also had to turn people away each night.

'Sometimes it takes a crisis'

Both agree there is an urgent and growing need for an additional space to house people when temperatures drop.

"I think sometimes it takes a crisis for people to really react and understand," said Benson. 

The Gospel Mission and Inn From the Cold have approached the City of Kelowna, B.C. Housing and other social agencies about finding a temporary shelter location.

"The multi-agency partnership working toward a longer-term solution for extreme weather shelter is getting closer to a solution," said City of Kelowna spokesperson Tom Wilson in an emailed statement.

Wilson said the city and B.C. Housing are exploring options for a shelter location "specifically for the Extreme Weather Response program."

He said more information will be available in the coming days.

"A facility is the number one thing at this point," said Benson.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South.

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