Wednesday night was the first night homeless individuals had a soft place to rest their heads in West Kelowna.
The west side’s only homeless shelter, located at the Emmanuel Church, 2600 Hebert Road, has opened for the winter season.
The shelter has 15 beds and will provide individuals with a hot meal, breakfast and a packed lunch. Laundry and showers will also be provided.
Stephen Johnston, president of the West Kelowna Shelter Society, said 10 of the beds will be able to be reserved.
“Those who are in good standing can actually have their name on a bed,” he said.
The shelter is open seasonally from Nov. 1 to March 31 at night from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
A shelter was run by the church a few years ago, which started to address homelessness in the city.
Now taken on by the society and working with BC Housing, initiatives are starting to provide homeless with shelters across the province for the winter, said Johnston.
“There are a lot of services available (in downtown Kelowna) and in the summer that works OK because the services aren’t overwhelmed, but as soon as the winter rolls in, people get pretty maxed out.”
The demand increases in winter because as the weather turns, those who are able to sleep outside have to move indoors, he said.
A lot of homeless in West Kelowna are residents of the community and there are approximately 25 individuals who are in need of shelters, not counting underage individuals, said Johnston.
He said resources are needed in the city, with the next goal is to get a 24-hour facility for the winter months.
The City of West Kelowna supports the shelter’s initiative.
““The city has met with a representative of the new West Kelowna Shelter Society to see if there is anything the city can do to help their efforts. We don’t have a true gauge at this time on how many homeless people are in West Kelowna and we welcome information from the shelter society as it becomes available,” said communications officer Kristen Jones.
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