New Kamloops temporary shelter nearing capacity after its first week

The temporary shelter in the former Stuart Wood Elementary School building opened Nov. 1, one day before winter arrived in Kamloops.

Up to 64 people have stayed in the new shelter each night since it opened

Christa Mullaly with the Canadian Mental Health Association said that while the shelter is committed to not turning anyone away, it is on the verge of reaching capacity. (Tara Copeland/CBC)

The temporary homeless shelter in the former Stuart Wood Elementary School in Kamloops, B.C. is already nearing capacity after just one week of operation. 

"If you build it they will come," said Christa Mullaly, executive director of the Kamloops branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. "That's exactly what's happened here."

The shelter was first set up with between 40 and 50 beds, and was used by 19 people on its first night, Nov. 1. But by Friday, the number of users had grown to 64.

"The folks were seeing here at the shelter, about two-thirds of them, we have not encountered before through any of our other services," Mullaly said.

Bud Forbes, chairman of the board for the Out of the Cold Shelter in Kamloops, said some those new faces are evacuees from the summer's Interior wildfires. 

"Those are the people that have come down from Williams Lake, 100 Mile and other communities in the Cariboo that have found that there's great facilities here so they're staying, they're not going back," he said.

Shelter opens as winter arrives

Over the week that the shelter has been open, the temperature took a dip in Kamloops, getting as low as -17 C with the windchill, according to Environment Canada.

Forbes said the cold affects people who are new to being homeless more than those who have lived on the street for a long time. 

"[People who are new to being homeless] have a little thin jacket on, they're wearing a ball cap and they are freezing cold," Forbes said. "But the regular street people, they have their toques, their hoodies, their heavy jackets, they dress for it. It's the people who are new to the streets that are really suffering."