A cold snap is on the way for the Okanagan and service providers are working around the clock to ensure vulnerable people are safe.
Kelowna Gospel Mission says they are meeting daily with other organizations to ensure any empty beds in shelters are filled.
“When we are dipping into sub -10 and below temperatures, people’s health is seriously at risk,” said Carmen Rempel, executive director for the Gospel Mission.
The agency is also in the process of starting a new program that will help bring more people inside.
“We have fantastic news! Starting in the new year we will be opening up another temporary mat program in downtown Kelowna at the Kelowna Unitarian Church,” said Rempel.
“We are hoping to bring an additional 25 people inside during the coldest months of the year.”
Meanwhile, the City of Penticton is working with local organizations to compile a list of all the services available for those who need them.
The information will be handed out to agencies, their clients and staff.
“We want individuals to be well aware that we have excellent service providers in Penticton. They are working across Christmas and all of the holidays to ensure that there are services available for individuals,” said Adam Goodwin, social development specialist for the City of Penticton.
“We are encouraging anyone who typically likes to be outside that when it dips down that they do go find a warm place, such as a shelter, to stay at overnight or to access during the day.”
Penticton is also prepared to open more spaces, if necessary, when temperatures drop.
“The shelter at 1706 Main St. is Penticton’s main location for homelessness services. The city has worked with BC Housing and the Penticton and District Society for Community Living (PDSCL) to let them know that if they need to expand their capacity beyond what it normally is, they are more than welcome to do that,” said Goodwin.
Meanwhile, the cold weather has advocates urging the community to show compassion.
“You might see more people finding their way inside and we just ask that you be non-judgmental, empathetic and compassionate because they are just trying to stay warm, and they have the same right to those spaces as you do,” said Rempel.