Some much-needed relief for those experiencing homelessness in Kelowna is on the way.
Two new overnight emergency winter shelters have been announced by the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society.
“The Journey Home strategy focuses on ensuring everyone has a place to call home, and the addition of housing is key to supporting those in Kelowna who have lost or are at risk of losing their home,” said Stephanie Ball, Central Okanagan Journey Home Society’s executive director.
“Emergency shelter is a critical part of the continuum of support that provides people with the opportunity to connect to housing.”
One of the new sites will be at the Welcome Inn on Ellis Street.
It will be operated by the Metro Community.
“From the beginning of November until the end of March, we will be able to house 39 people in this space,” said Amber Webster-Kotak, Metro Community’s executive director.
“It will offer them a place to sleep, eat, shower and get some laundry done.”
A new ‘pod system’ is being introduced to help with physical distancing. Every occupant will be given their own space.
“Beds are just lined up so many feet apart, people really feel uncomfortable. They don’t always sleep at night, because you’re looking at your bed mate right across the way, so this affords people a little bit of privacy,” said Webster-Kotak.
The other new overnight emergency shelter will be operated by the Kelowna Gospel Mission. It will be able to house up to 40 people and will feature ‘pods’ as well.
“Kelowna’s Gospel Mission will be operating a temporary emergency winter shelter out of the old courier building here on Doyle Avenue,” said Carmen Rempel, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission’s executive director.
This year’s shelter situation has been much different due to the pandemic. Rempel said getting the new site feels like a weight being lifted off her shoulders.
“Every winter it gets cold and every year the community scrambles to figure out what we’re going to do with people living outside in the rough outside in the cold months,” said Rempel.
“This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, we have to spread the beds out, we had to find a new location. We are really happy we found this space.”
Shelter occupants will not be lining up every night to get a spot — the same pod will be reserved for them through the winter.
There are currently four shelters operating in Kelowna and with these two additional locations, there will be a total of 217 beds available on a nightly basis this winter.
The two new shelters will be opening in the coming weeks with the Welcome Inn Shelter opening Nov. 2nd and the new Kelowna’s Gospel Mission shelter aiming to open Dec. 1st.