The City of Kelowna’s temporary outdoor shelter on Recreation Avenue, pictured in winter 2019. (Black Press Media file)

The City of Kelowna’s temporary outdoor shelter on Recreation Avenue, pictured in winter 2019. (Black Press Media file)

Kelowna outreach group hopes winter shelter comes soon

With the early onset of winter conditions this year, those without homes need shelter sooner

As the weather turns colder and the snow comes earlier, HOPE Outreach said its volunteers are worried about Kelowna residents who are experiencing homelessness.

The non-profit organization’s executive director Angie Lohr said over the weekend, outreach teams saw about 10 women and 50 men without shelter.

“They’re maybe waiting for shelters, maybe on a list. And I know all the agencies are coming together (to help),” she said.

“Sadly, not too many of them do nighttime outreach. So between Bridges, Gospel Mission and a few other agencies that are going out this weekend, we just congregated and figured out who was going out when and who was bringing what.”

Lohr said HOPE volunteers distributed warm blankets, socks and mittens to those sleeping rough.

Those who wish to use the open space on Baillie Avenue can use it to camp overnight but because it’s an open space with no protection from the wind, Lohr said they only saw about two individuals using the area. The women who usually stay there have also left due to the cold, staying closer to where there are buildings.

And with COVID-19 restrictions on capacity, not a lot of people can access shelter services.

“So we have a lot of people sleeping rough. It was -11 degrees last night. I’ve slept homeless in my past and it is not a pleasant experience. And it’s only going to get worse.”

“Everyone’s scattered and trying to do the best they can, tenting in the woods somewhere off Enterprise or wherever they can get shelter right now,” she said.

She said with the early onset of colder temperatures and snow, she’s hoping a temporary winter shelter can be made available soon but she’s not sure when exactly that will happen.

“I hope that there’s been an urgency over this weekend put into people’s minds that could perhaps speed up the process… we’re just really hoping there is a suitable plan in place soon.”

READ: New supportive housing project for Kelowna’s homeless skips usual rezoning process

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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