People in need of a warm, safe place to go during the months ahead will have access to two additional emergency shelter spaces in Kelowna. These emergency shelter programs work with communities and non-profits throughout B.C. to provide temporary but immediate places to stay for anyone who is experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The Welcome Inn at 1265 Ellis Street which operated as an emergency shelter last winter will provide 39 beds, and be operated by Metro Community. The 24/7 winter shelter is planned to open on November 2, 2020.  Metro Central at 1262 St. Paul Street will continue to operate as a drop-in center with the addition of emergency mats for surge capacity during extreme winter weather.

“The hygiene center that was open to support to those experiencing homelessness through the summer closed in order to train staff and set up the space for winter sheltering,” said Amber Webster-Kotak, Executive Director Metro Community. “We are pleased to be able to offer these vital services in our community this year.”

The Doyle Avenue Shelter at 550 Doyle Avenue will provide approximately 40 beds and be operated by the Kelowna Gospel Mission.

“It’s important to us to be able to offer this additional space for those in need,“ said Carmen Rempel, Executive Director Kelowna Gospel Mission. “Through long-term relationships of trust, we can help our community members gradually achieve stability and momentum towards positive change.”

As recent owners of a vacant downtown building, UBC Okanagan and Mission Group were pleased to collaborate to make the space available for the Emergency Winter Shelter program this year.

“This region is stronger when we build capacity through partnerships and collaboration,” says Lesley Cormack, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal at UBC Okanagan. “Our university is committed to these partnerships and working toward solutions to the challenges faced by members of our community.

“There is an urgent need for winter shelter space, particularly in this year of pandemic response,” says Cormack. “Through this initiative — with Kelowna Gospel Mission operating a shelter using a site that will be redeveloped next year — there will be much-needed assistance for people experiencing homelessness over the coming winter months. Establishing a well-resourced temporary shelter, with appropriate professional staffing and a range of supports available on-site, is a meaningful way our community can contribute to improving health and wellbeing for those who are most in need.”

“We understand the urgent need for winter shelter in our community and the team at Mission Group is pleased to be part of the solution,” says Randy Shier CEO of Mission Group.  “We are grateful to be working with our partners to create a place for members of our community that need a warm and safe place to stay.  As part of Mission Group’s Build It Forward philosophy, we will continue to find ways to enhance the well-being of all members of our community.”

There are currently four shelters operating in Kelowna and with these two additional locations, there will be a total of approximately 217 beds available on a nightly basis this winter. Shelter guests will have access to daily meals, storage for their belongings, washrooms and amenity space. Staff will be on site at all times when the shelter is open and the operator will provide information about the project and contact details for neighbours and community members who may have questions or concerns.

“Since 2017, 231 units of supportive housing have been added in Kelowna, with an additional 87 units of housing with supports being added by early 2021,” said Stephanie Ball, Executive Director Cetnral Okanagan Journey Home Society. “But at any given time, the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community can ebb and flow, with more than 2,000 experiencing homelessness in the course of a year.”

All emergency winter shelters are provided for through the Province’s temporary and extreme weather response shelter programs until March 31, 2021.

“The Journey Home Strategy focusses on ensuring everyone has a place to call home and the addition of housing is key to supporting those in Kelowna who have lost, or are at risk of losing their home,” said Ball. “Emergency shelter is a critical part of the continuum of supports that provides people with the opportunity to connect to housing.”

For more information about the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society and the Journey Home Strategy, visit journeyhome.ca.