October 10, 2016 8:18 pm
Updated: October 10, 2016 8:54 pm

‘You are stronger than you believe’: inspirational Thanksgiving at Kelowna Gospel Mission

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It’s traditionally the Kelowna Gospel Mission’s biggest meal, but this Thanksgiving the need is even greater with homeless numbers in the city reaching staggering highs.

READ MORE: Kelowna sees spike in homeless population

Roughly 800 meals are being prepared and dished out, with 170 plates served in the first hour alone, a record for the mission.

On each place mat, there’s a personal message from donors who helped make the massive meal possible.

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“We want people to feel welcome, feel safe, appreciated and feel that they have worth,” said Kelowna Gospel Mission executive director Randy Benson. “I think this helps do that.”

The Kelowna Gospel Mission has seen staggering shelter numbers in the past few weeks with roughly 100 people a night needing a place to sleep. Benson said it points to a much bigger problem in the city — not enough affordable places for people to call home.

“There’s something going on in our economy and our society that the need just seems to be continuing,” said Benson.

The city admits there is a problem. Mayor Colin Basran said the solution is through partnerships and funding from the provincial and federal governments.

“What we need to do is lobby the provincial and federal governments for housing for those in the community who need it.”

Basran also pointed to the fact there are some projects already underway to help ease the homeless problem, including the transformation of a local motel into an affordable housing project.

READ MORE: Hotel to home: new Kelowna affordable housing complex

“It’s not like there aren’t things happening. Things are happening they’re just not happening quick enough,” said Basran.

“We’re doing our best.”

Benson said there’s also been an influx of people using its daytime meal services, including a noticeable increase in families and couples.

He said while a solution to the bigger picture problem still needs to be found, at Monday’s Thanksgiving meal, there’s “lots of thank-you’s, appreciation and even as people came in as we were greeting them, there’s been lots of ‘Happy Thanksgiving’s.'”

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About 50 volunteers helped prepare and deliver this year’s meal.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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