Another 15 shelter beds will be available for those in need beginning on Thursday night, with the opening of a temporary shelter space downtown in the Kamloops Curling Club.
In lieu of ice sheets and curling rocks: instead picture contained living pods, laundry and bathrooms.
City of Kamloops social development supervisor Ty Helgason said the curling club, which has been closed this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rented to BC Housing, has been equipped with 50 shelter beds.
The shelter replaces a space operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, located at 185 Royal Ave. in North Kamloops, which was set up at the onset of the pandemic with 35 beds in partnership with BC Housing. The net bed gain is an additional 15 beds.
Mustard Seed Kamloops and the Emerald Centre lost shelter beds during the pandemic, due to spacing requirements in place to prevent spread of the virus.
Available shelter space has met the city’s needs as of late, but Helgason said the timing of the curling club opening is welcome, with the city about to experience colder weather patterns.
“We do anticipate that we may see an uptick in the usage of beds but, with the opening of the curling club, we do see a net increase of 15 beds,” he said. “We anticipate we’ll still be able to meet the needs in a cold snap.”
Memorial Arena continues to be on standby as overflow shelter space should the city reach maximum capacity for shelter beds, though so far it has not been required, Helgason said.
Helgason said the new shelter space in the curling club also improves conditions for those who previously stayed at the Royal Avenue shelter.
“They’re kind of coming from a more dormitory-style living space into a more private, dignified setting,” Helgason said. “We’re really excited to be able to offer this to people.”
People staying at the Royal Avenue shelter were expected to move to the curling club location on Thursday and Friday, with people offered the new accommodations and transportation provided.
Triage for people going into shelter will be run by Emerald Centre, CMHA’s main shelter, located on West Victoria Street.
Helgason said lower-needs individuals — CMHA staff assess those who come through the doors at Emerald Centre based on their experience with the population and with help from an assessment tool — will stay at the curling club to help with community integration and ensure negative impacts are not felt on surrounding businesses and residents, Helgason said. Security and 24/7 CMHA staffing will also be on site.
Helgason said renovations occurred at the curling club, due to the nature of it being a recreational space turned overnight accommodations. Curlers moved over this year to the McArthur Island Curling Club, where they played a short time before provincial health orders banned team sports. The city’s building and fire inspectors went through the space and identified updates to be made, with respect to codes and safety. BC Housing has an agreement with the curling club to operate the shelter until March 31, with possible extension.
Shelters are typically supposed to house residents for up to one month. However, with a lack of affordable, low-income and supportive housing available in Kamloops, some people stay at times in shelters longer than intended. Conversations continue with BC Housing, Interior Health and local service agencies on housing solutions, Helgason said.
“There’s a great need for affordable housing in general, especially affordable housing for seniors,” Helgason said. “There is a need for affordable youth housing and there is definitely a need for supportive housing, as well as affordable housing for families.”