It’s been two weeks since a temporary shelter run by the John Howard Society on Ellis Street opened and things are going well.
“It is pretty much at capacity every night and in the mornings we are getting a full-20 coming over to our drop-in centre next door,” said Laurence East, pastor with Metro Community.
Metro Community church purchased the old Central Okanagan Food Bank on Ellis Street, which is currently being used as an emergency shelter. Previously it was being renovated to serve the needs of its membership. Those renovations went on hold when a decision was made to use the space for a temporary shelter while temperatures dipped to sub zero levels and pre-existing shelter spaces filled up.
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“It’s a no drugs, no drinking shelter and people seem to be calm,” said East. “Those who come in, come in just to sleep and to rest. They get a decent mattress and a pillow and it’s warm.”
East said Shaw installed high speed internet at the facility for while the shelter is up and running and that’s satisfying clients who almost all have smartphones.
“We thought about putting in a TV, but we didn’t want it to be disruptive,” he said.
The space is only supposed to be used until the end of February, but there’s already been talk of an extension if conditions don’t improve. That’s something that East is comfortable with doing.
As for how neighbours are faring with their new neighbours, it’s been pretty good. East said they sent out a letter to those nearby and explained what was happening.
Only one incident has thus far raised concerns and it was largely a misunderstanding. A harm reduction kit was found and people believed it to be dirty needles.
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