A homeless shelter in West Kelowna has opened at Emmanuel Church and will offer its services for the colder months. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

West Kelowna urged to help the homeless

A location for a drop-in centre is needed to shelter those on the street from the cold

West Kelowna council is being urged to join the effort to help the homeless in the city.

On Monday night, Rosemary Weighill, a member of Westbank United Church and a board member of the West Kelowna Shelter Society told council homelessness in West Kelowna is getting worse and the city’s help is needed to find a suitable location for a drop-in centre to give those on the street a place to go, especially now that the weather is getting colder.

“This is a matter of life and death,” she said.

While a shelter in West Kelowna has been created for those on the street to spend the night, and the Westbank United Church has started a lunch program that runs three days a week, Weighill said there are gaps which leave people nowhere to go for several hours during the day.

Mayor Doug Findlater said senior city staff have met with representatives of the West Kelowna Shelter Society and are looking into the issue.

Weighill said there is the possibility of a funding from B.C. Housing to help but a location must be found first.

Findlater said there is also the possibility of grant-in-aid funding from the city but decisions on grants-in-aid for 2018 have yet to be made.

Weighill said last year an average of 11 people per night sought shelter in West Kelowna but this year the number has jumped to 20 people per night, and has gone as high as 26.

The lunch program the United Church started caters to about 26 people but as the weather gets colder that number is also increasing.

“We see about 56 on cold days,” she said, adding its not just the homeless who are showing up—lonely seniors, people who are otherwise isolated in the community, low income families and young adults are also using the lunch program

But she said there is a four-hour gap between when the lunch ends and when the shelter opens and people on the street have nowhere to go and that’s why a drop-in centre is needed.

“This is a fairly urgent request,” she told council. “We need to be finding a place soon.”

Findlater said city staff will continue working with the West Kelowna Shelter Society in a bid to find a possible location for a drop-in centre.

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