Homeless bundle under blankets outside of the Gospel Mission. Colder weather has arrived and shelters are operating at full capacity. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Extreme weather shelter approved for Kelowna

With homeless shelters operating at full capacity in Kelowna, an emergency weather shelter will open

A new temporary extreme weather shelter may be open soon in Kelowna while a new West Kelowna homeless shelter has also opened to help the homeless in that city.

The two new options arrived just as the first signs of winter weather did as well in the Okanagan.

Randy Benson, executive director of the Gospel Mission, said he was told the good news about the new emergency shelter on Wednesday.

“BC Housing and the city have identified a potential to at least do an extreme weather temporary shelter, to be able to take the overflow,” of people needing beds to sleep in, he said.

There has been no word on the shelter’s location, or when it will open.

The Gospel Mission’s 90 beds are full, said Benson, as the shelter has been running at capacity throughout the summer.

In the meantime, the mission will place sleeping mats in its dining room area to deal with the high numbers of people needing shelter, until the other facility can get up and running.

As the weather turns, there’s an increase of demands for shelter, he said.

Another homeless shelter in downtown Kelowna, Inn from the Cold, typically operates during the winter months starting Nov. 1, but has been operating throughout the summer thanks to funding from the government, said executive director Jan Schulz.

The shelter has also been operating at full capacity.

“We are desperately trying to get the most vulnerable off the street and somewhere warm and safe,” she said.

Inn from the Cold has 35 beds, and Schulz said there is a need for more.

“When we turn them away, which we have to because we’re full, we know they’re going to be outside and that’s always a concern.”

According to Tom Wilson, with the City of Kelowna, the city “is supporting BC Housing and our local agencies in any way we can to find a longer-term solution.”

“With the Gospel Mission agreeing to provide additional temporary shelter beds in response to weather conditions, the city is supporting the effort to explore long-term options. The Gospel Mission is one of a number of groups at the table right now to find a solution.”

The city does not have further details at this time, said Wilson via email.

In West Kelowna, a homeless shelter opened Wednesday night for the winter months. Hours of operation are from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night from Nov. 1 to March 31 at the Emmanuel Church.

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