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Kelowna's homeless shelters facing high demand

With the first month of the season behind them, volunteers and employees at Kelowna's Inn from the Cold can say one thing with confidence.

"We've had a really busy season so far," said Tara Tschritter, co-ordinator at Inn from the Cold.

Generally the shelter houses about 28 people per night in their 35 beds. This season, they've been averaging 34 a night.

And those clients are as varied as the people in the community.

"We're seeing men and women, and people with pets," said Schritter, noting that they're a low barrier shelter, which means couples will likely find their way to them, as opposed to some of the other shelters in town that focus their efforts on men, or women, alone.

Schritter has also seen a number of clients who are older, which is of some concern.

"About 30 per cent of the population in our shelter is people who are 55-plus," she said, noting the proportion mirrors that of the community at large.

"That being said, it's worrisome when we see seniors. The older people get the more vulnerable they are."

There's no specific reason why the business at the shelter has seen an uptick, or why there are more older people using their services, but Schritter said it's likely due to the fact that there still isn't enough low income housing in the area, and the economy has never recovered from the economic downturn in '08.

"More places have opened… but people who are on disability, still only get $375 for rent, so just finding appropriate accommodation is challenging," she said.

"And after a few years of the economy not going well, people start losing their housing."

A better picture of what the shelter's clientele are facing will be clear later in the season, following a series of workshops where they will be asked what it is they're facing.

With that, Schritter hopes she and her staff will be better  equipped to help people find housing and stay out of the shelter.

"This is just a bandaid. It's needed, but we want to see people in their own homes," she said.

For more information on the shelter, go to innfromthecoldkelowna.org.

 

 

Getting in the giving spirit

The countdown to Christmas is on, and those looking for a way to give back to their community are being welcomed with open arms to any number of local charities.

Inn from the Cold is of those organizations.

"This time of year brings out the best of people," said Tara Schritter, co-ordinator for Inn from the Cold.

"We have a variety of groups coming to us, asking 'what can we do?'"

Luckily for them, Schritter has a few good ideas stemming from the fact that their operations are highly in need of volunteer elbow grease as well as financial donations.

"Five nights a week, we have community groups coming in to donate and make meals," she said, noting that the Rotary Club, Okanagan Mission highschool, Lululemon and a host of others have already donated their time this year.

The shelter is also the beneficiary of a Disney fundraiser, which is bound to stock their shelves.

Although the benefit to the shelter is top of mind, giving also creates a bit of cheer, says Nicole Gareau.

Gareau is the manager of Urban Barn, and that store is holding an event called Blanket the Country.

Anyone who goes into the store is asked to donate $5 and that buys a blanket for one of the clients at the shelter.

"Our target is to supply them for 150 blankets, and anything we collect over and above will be donated in a dollar value," said Gareau, noting that the blankets would retail at $20 to $25, normal.

It's a charity that her customers get a sense of satisfaction from.

"Just the fact you get something you physically see and you know there's an immediate benefit," she said.

With the help of Flightcraft and CIBC, Urban Barn has almost reached its targets.

 

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