As winter nears, City of Kamloops looking to secure shelter space

There have been four shelters with 130 beds available this year, but beds in two of those locations will need to be moved to others spaces.

The physical-distancing requirements that came as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused some havoc among Kamloops homeless shelters earlier this year.

At the beginning of the year, there were 55 beds available at Emerald Centre and 30 mats available at the Mustard Seed Kamloops, but in order to meet physical-distancing requirements, those had to be reduced to 40 and 20, respectively.

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Both shelters are downtown on West Victoria Street.

The loss of beds was addressed by opening a temporary shelter on Royal Avenue in North Kamloops, with 20 beds, and using Memorial Arena, downtown on Victoria Street, for 50 overflow beds.

Until recently, those 50 beds at Memorial had been untouched, but with all the other shelters at or near capacity during the last two weeks, plans are in place to finally utilize the beds now at the arena.

But since the Memorial Arena space is only available until the end of November, and with the Royal Avenue location running until the end of December, the city is working to secure new locations for shelters during the winter months, according to Ty Helgason, the city’s acting social and community development supervisor.

“With the availability of the temporary shelter on Royal Avenue and Memorial shelter both coming to an end rather quickly, and as we go into the winter, we are exploring our options with shelter providers and with BC Housing,” he said.

Helgason said he hopes to be able to make an announcement soon about those alternative shelter locations, noting the city is going through steps to ensure potential locations will be safe for those sheltering there.

It is believed the beds in Memorial will be moved next door to the Kamloops Curling Club, since curling at that facility has been cancelled for the season, due to the pandemic. In reporting in the closure this season of the curling club, KTW noted the space will be rented out from Oct. 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, to help with the bottom line.

In addition to the shelter beds, 20 hotel rooms were set aside to be to isolate those in the homeless community who had been infected with COVID-19. Helgason said that while those locations have been used periodically, it was almost always to isolate someone who was awaiting test results.

Though it has been a challenging year, Helgason said the city has relied on the response of service providers in the community, including the ASK Wellness Society, the Canadian Mental Health Association, The Mustard Seed Kamloops, the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society, BC Housing and Interior Health.

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