British Columbia

Kelowna, B.C. homeless shelter struggling with fentanyl overdoses and an increase in clients

Kelowna homeless shelter Inn From the Cold is struggling with an increase in the number of clients needing beds, as well as a spike in drug overdoses, according to executive director Jan Schulz

"It's very, very hard. It's very emotional," says Inn From the Cold executive director Jan Schulz

Inn From the Cold shelter is turning away up to a dozen people every night, says executive director Jan Schulz (Brady Strachan/CBC)

The Kelowna, B.C. homeless shelter, Inn From the Cold, is struggling with a spike in the number of drug overdoses and more and more of people asking for a bed each night, according to executive director Jan Schulz.

In an interview with CBC Radio One's Daybreak South, Schulz said her staff is used to dealing with people who have no place to sleep, but not at these numbers.

"We have been full every night and we have been turning people away seven to 12 people every night," she said.

"We have guests who cannot go anywhere else, so to turn them away — we know the chances are they are going to be sleeping outside."

Inn From the Cold is a low barrier shelter, said Schulz, explaining that some of the people who stay there have pets, are couples or are "red zoned" by the criminal justice system — meaning they have a court order banning them from entering the city's downtown core.

If people can't get into the shelter, they often end up spending the night in a park or in an area close to a creek nearby, she said.

"This has been a growing concern," said Schulz.

Spike in drug overdoses

In addition to the lack of available beds, Schulz and her staff at are dealing with a growing fentanyl crisis.

In the last week alone, shelter workers had to administer naloxone — an opioid overdose antidote — six times to people both at the shelter or nearby.

"It's very difficult when you are dealing with someone who you have been working with for some time and you see the individual in this situation and you know they are fighting for their life," she said. 

"It's very, very hard. It's very emotional."

Schulz said her staff are doing whatever they can to help their clients and save lives, but she admits it's an immense challenge.

"At the moment we are on a shoestring budget and we are just barely making ends meet."

With files from Alya Ramadan and CBC Radio One's Daybreak Kelowna.

​To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Fentanyl and homelessness. Kelowna shelter struggling to manage an influx of both