Kelowna’s Gospel Mission has a new tool to help the homeless population.
The organization has acquired a new van that will allow it to expand its outreach services.
“We’re just so thankful,” said Troy McKnight, corporate and community relations officer for the Gospel Mission.
“We actually went to a number of corporate partners in town, and, even in the midst of the challenges of COVID, a number of the companies stepped up and the van is fully paid for.”
The van will serve a variety of purposes, including meal distribution, which has become an issue because of the ongoing pandemic.
“Due to COVID-19, we made the difficult decision to restrict our dining room meal service to residents only,” McNight said.
“We’ve been unable to have people coming in for regular meals, so that’s forced us to have to pivot and start to focus on actually bringing food to where people are.”
Until now, the Gospel Mission has been using two minivans to distribute more than 200 daily meals to people on the streets, but it’s been challenging.
“We’re doing that with two minivans, which did not have the capacity for the number of meals that we distribute,” McKnight said.
“It also didn’t have the capacity for the hygiene kits and all the other supports that we wanted to offer, so this van is going to make an incredible difference for us.”
The new van will also act as a mini warming centre during winter and a cooling one in summer.
“The new sprinter van has two seats in the front for the driver and passenger, but also has a bench seat in behind, which can seat three. So during the cold months, especially as COVID subsides, we’ll be able to have people sit inside, warm up,” McKnight said.
“And in the summertime, we’ll be using it to help people cool down and distribute sunscreen as well as water.”
The newly acquired van will also be used as a mobile office, allowing outreach staff to meet with clients.
“It allows us to serve more people, more effectively, and also provide case management on the spot, which is going to help people move towards finding homes,” McKnight said.
The new van will be put to use for the first time on Thursday when it serves lunch at the Queensway bus loop to people experiencing homelessness.