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Urgent appeal for winter shelter in Kelowna

Click to play video: 'A public appeal is being made to help find a temporary winter shelter for the homeless in Kelowna' A public appeal is being made to help find a temporary winter shelter for the homeless in Kelowna
A public appeal is being made to help find a temporary winter shelter for the homeless in Kelowna – Oct 31, 2019

With winter fast approaching, concerns are growing for the people who sleep outside in Kelowna.

“I wouldn’t want to be on the street last night, for one thing sleeping, so it’s urgent,” said Debbie Hubbard, an executive board member for the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society, which has been tasked with finding solutions to the homelessness crisis.

According to regular and joint head counts by the City of Kelowna and Downtown Kelowna Association, there are between 60 and 80 people sleeping on the streets every night.

“The numbers are increasing much more than they were this time last year,” Hubbard said.

READ MORE: Controversial homeless shelter in downtown Kelowna to stay open indefinitely

Randy Benson is the executive director of the Gospel Mission, which, like all the other shelters, is operating at full capacity.

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“We have 90 beds available and all of those beds are spoken for every night,” he said.

Benson has worked at the Gospel Mission for nearly two decades and said he’s never seen that many people sleeping outside near the shelter on Leon Avenue.

“This is the worst we’ve ever seen it in all my years of working at the Mission,” he told Global News.

Part of the reason is the void left from the former Inn from the Cold program.

The 40-bed shelter, in the city’s Capri area, was forced to shut its doors earlier this year as the building was torn down for re-development.

Click to play video: 'Sgt. Greg Woodcox on homelessness on Leon Ave.' Sgt. Greg Woodcox on homelessness on Leon Ave.
Sgt. Greg Woodcox on homelessness on Leon Ave – Oct 23, 2019

With so many people sleeping on the streets and with winter around the corner, an urgent, public appeal is being made to help find sites for both a daytime warming centre and a night-time bed shelter.

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“We have been working with the broad-based community partners since September and the city has been looking for sites since June,” Hubbard said.

“We would welcome any input from people and if they have ideas around location, if they have an opportunity to offer a warming centre site, I am optimistic that this community will respond.”

On Thursday, the provincial government announced that it is funding hundreds of temporary shelter beds across the province, including Kelowna and the Southern Interior.

While that’s good news, the bad news in the Central Okanagan is that there’s still no place to put those beds.

“The government gives us the money, but it’s up to the community to find the space,” Benson said. “So that is what we are working on right now.”

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United Way – Southern Interior BC – launches Unignorable campaign – Sep 20, 2019

Anyone wanting more information or to contact the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society, click here.

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Other temporary shelters announced by B.C. Housing in the Southern Interior include:

Temporary emergency shelter locations:

  • Penticton, 1706 Main Street, 20 spaces
  • Revelstoke (working with the city to establish shelter spaces)
  • Salmon Arm, 441 3rd Street, 16 spaces
  • Trail, 1458 Bay Avenue, 6 spaces
  • Vernon, 2800 33 Street, 20 spaces
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A new homelessness simulator initiative hopes to give Kelowna residents a small taste of what it’s like living on the streets – May 28, 2019

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