The Out of the Cold shelter may not open this weekend, as initially hoped.
Executive director Lena Cimmarrusti said the organization continues to await approvals from the city.
The non-profit has been without a home so far this season and had recently secured a new location at the Canadian Mental Health Association in the 800-block of Seymour Street downtown. It had aimed to open on Sunday, Jan. 5. However, the kitchen still needs to be licensed by Interior Health and the fire marshall and city planners need to approve property capacity.
“We’re planning to open as soon as we can in January,” Cimmarrusti told KTW.
Meanwhile, a volunteer information session was held on Dec. 28, with between 30 and 40 people turning up to learn about the non-profit group, which offers the homeless and others in need food, company and a place to spend the night two nights per week: Sundays and Wednesdays.
About a dozen people at the information session signed up to volunteer.
Out of the Cold previously operated for a number of years out of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, downtown at Nicola Street and Fourth Avenue.
Cimmarrusti said that between new and former volunteers, about 40 people have indicated they can lend a hand — enough to begin operating once approvals are in place.
Still, Cimmarrusti said more people will be needed both to volunteer and for hire. Additional volunteer sessions will be held on a monthly basis.
Location questioned by area resident
A Seymour Street resident is concerned about the Out of the Cold shelter opening in her neighbourhood.
Shelley McRae lives near the Canadian Mental Health Association’s building at 857 Seymour St. and said she was not consulted.
“We had no notification from anyone,” McRae said. “One time, there was a funeral home that wanted to open up and we all got letters.”
McRae said she has lived in the area for a long time and has had issues with homeless people entering her property, resulting in calls to police. She fears the shelter could add to the problem.
As a result, she has started a petition opposing the shelter and wants the city to find a location outside of a residential neighbourhood.
Cimmarrusti, however, said the Canadian Mental Health Association clubhouse is an ideal location for the shelter. She said she is unaware of any requirements to canvas the neighbourhood, but wants to meet with anyone who has concerns.
Cimmarrusti has already met with McRae and one other person, explaining that homeless people will not be sleeping in the alleyways. Instead, they’ll be sleeping inside and have a place to clean up and use a bathroom.
She noted homeless people are not criminals, but are down and out and trying to survive. In Kamloops, she said, there are many places for them to eat, but not a lot of places to clean up or sleep.
“It’s all supposed to help,” Cimmarrusti said. “It’s not supposed to make things worse.”