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Meal Train remains on Tranquille, day centre stays closed

The Loop drop-in centre will not be reopening at its Tranquille Road location, but the city has allowed the organization behind it to continue using it for its COVID-19 Meal Train program.
Glenn Hilke
Glen Hilke meets with some friends of the streets of downtown Kamloops.

The Loop drop-in centre will not be reopening at its Tranquille Road location, but the city has allowed the organization behind it to continue using it for its COVID-19 Meal Train program.

Glenn Hilke of The Loop said the meal train program will still be operational out of the building at 405A Tranquille Rd. to prepare meals.

The day centre, however, which provided space for the city’s homeless to congregate while accessing food, water and other services, remains shuttered.

Hilke said it’s “much too soon to tell” when asked if they will endeavour to reopen the drop-in centre program at 405A Tranquille Rd. or another location. He noted that new day space being set up on nearby Campbell Avenue by a group of social agencies is only operational for the next four months after receiving the $38,000 in funding The Loop was denied.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen after four months in terms of there being a day space and shelter,” Hilke said.

The non-profit that oversees The Loop received permission to continue food preparation for the meal train out of the building, but the city has forbidden food service inside or outside the building on the property.

“We told them that we thought it would be a great disservice to people who are food insecure if the meal train could not continue,” Hilke said.

The not-for-profit Lived Experience Community Life and Peer Skills Program, oversees various programs such as the COVID-19 Meal Train, The Loop drop-in centre and The Big Edition street newspaper.

Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social housing and community development manager, told KTW the city granted the request to allow the meal train to continue operating out of the space as the issues occurring in the space were attributed to people congregating for The Loop program.

“It was issues and concerns around site management, the community impact on adjacent businesses as well as residences in the area as opposed to the COVID-19 Meal Train,” Mazzotta said.

Mazzotta said there have been concerns with The Loop regarding client and public safety in and around the site, but as the city sees it, the meal train program should be allowed to continue as it is just staff using the building for food security purposes.

The meal train pre-dates The Loop in usage of the building and involves food preparation and delivery of twice daily meals to various locations around the city where homeless individuals can be found, including to non-profit housing accommodations.

“It’s feeding a couple hundred people throughout the city,” Hilke said.

The city has also contacted the Kamloops Food Bank regarding the resolution, clarifying that the organization can still supply the meal train at the Tranquille Road property. Hilke said the food bank cut access to food donations last week until the issue with the city was resolved. Mazzotta said the food bank has also expressed interest in supplying food to two new day spaces opening in Kamloops, which will ideally open within the week.

Last Thursday, following a physical altercation between Loop visitors and someone staff described as a vigilante, the City of Kamloops moved to close the space.

Bylaw officers attended, had those in attendance clear up a pile of items left outside the building and hauled away what wasn’t claimed. They also asked staff to close their doors.

Despite a vow from Hilke to reopen the space the following day, volunteer, Heather McDonald told KTW on Friday they opted to remain closed so as not to antagonize the city.

According to Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian, The Loop, which was deemed a nuisance property by the municipality in May, had not taken steps to improve conditions leading to it being listed as such under its bylaws, so it is being closed on that basis. He said in the months since, the situation there has deteriorated further.

The drop-in centre has served as a space for the homeless and others to congregate and get water and meals, but has been the subject of numerous complaints related to people congregating, drug use and garbage left behind.

Asked if The Loop is permanently closed to the site by the city, Mazzotta said he could not speak to that as the process is still ongoing.