Cold weather response already underway
The Central Okanagan Journey Home Society (COJHS) is working with the City of Kelowna, BC Housing, shelter operators, outreach agencies and other partners in responding to cold weather conditions.
“We’re pulling every lever we can to increase the number of indoor sheltering spaces available in Kelowna. Heading into the winter season, emergency mat programs and other extreme weather responses, and a variety of other initiatives are being planned,” said COJHS Executive Director Stephanie Gauthier. “However, the demand for shelter continues to grow faster than new spaces are becoming available, and that means we will have people sheltering outdoors this winter.”
COJHS is working with its partners to help mitigate the risks and impacts to those who are forced to shelter outside. Partners will be conducting welfare checks and distributing warming supplies and connecting individuals with shelter and daytime warming locations.
“We’ve developed an extreme cold weather response plan to respond to the risks and challenges created by cold weather, ice and snow,” said Gauthier. “The plan is already being rolled out where we are able to, and implementation will continue through the winter. We will not stop trying to mobilize solutions for those who need shelter from the cold.”
The plan has two levels. In the first phase, agencies initiate enhanced outreach activities, and health and safety checks begin. The second-level response kicks in when temperatures drop further and emergency mat programs are triggered. Many operators continue to face staffing shortages and the scope of responses through the winter will depend on their capacity.
“In October, the Bay Avenue Shelter opened an additional 30 shelter beds in Kelowna. If staffing can be found, there is a potential to open an additional 30 beds.” continued Gauthier.
Daytime services are available through Metro Community Services, who provides hygiene, food, social and peer support services to people experiencing homelessness. The designated outdoor overnight site is located at the intersection of Richter Street and the Okanagan Rail Trail for those needing a temporary location for overnight sheltering.
More than 300 long-term, supportive housing units have been created in Kelowna since 2017, an additional 20 complex care beds operated by Interior Health will be coming to Kelowna soon and there are 238 shelter beds spread across five emergency shelters in the city including the Bay Avenue shelter which opened in mid-October 2022.
There are things we can all do to help respond to homelessness. Visit journeyhome.ca to learn more.