Gospel Mission expands overnight capacity in light of increasing demand

Kelowna's homeless population appears to be surging, prompting the Gospel Mission to increase its overnight capacity.

The Gospel Mission's sleeping quarters have been expanded to meet increasing need.

Kelowna’s homeless population appears to be surging, prompting the Gospel Mission to increase its overnight capacity.

Karl Heinitz, the Gospel Mission’s director of emergency services, said the shelter made room for a total of 100 beds earlier this week. The mission’s website says they had around a dozen fewer than that, previously.

“Since the middle of August our numbers started jumping,” Heinitz said.

“Before, if we had a day with over 100 people it was really rare — it happened maybe three or four times a year.”

In August, the exception became the norm and as of last night they had 116 overnight guests.

Heinitz can’t say what exactly caused the jump, but he said the current rental rate isn’t helping.

“We have a lot of people waiting to get into the housing, and there isn’t a lot there, so people who would otherwise move ono are having to stay here a little longer,” he said.

The mild climate is also prompting more people to head to the Okanagan.

While last week’s expansion may help them for awhile, the mission is looking at other ways to increase capacity. Top of the list is the mat program.

In the meantime, there are other ways the mission is assisting the homeless population. Storage sheds for shopping carts are continually filled and on Monday, from noon until six, the mission will hold its annual turkey Thanksgiving dinner.

“Anybody can come for that,” said Heinitz.