Bitter cold opens shelter’s doors to Penticton’s homeless

Frigid temperatures have local officials scrambling to arrange shelter for the city’s homeless again tonight.

The Cold Snap Inn (CSI Penticton) was back in operation Thursday with the mercury expected to drop to near-record levels of -13 C.

Christine Simmons, Salvation Army community ministries director, expects the shelter service to continue for at least another day.

“We’re getting better at it (organizing),” said Simmons. “We’re OK with venues, the only issue is finding people who can operate a bus to bring the people to the shelter.”

Operated through the Salvation Army, five local churches provide space for people to stay when temperatures are forecast to fall below -10 C.

Over the winter months so far, CSI Penticton has been open for about 10 nights, helping an average of three people each evening.

“Even if one person comes in and gets to spend the night that’s important to us because that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s pretty tough out there and when you add the windchill it’s even worse.”

Simmons noted those helped are very grateful for the shelter, a hot meal and some winter clothing if needed. 

“Plus there is the interaction with the folks who are volunteering from the church where they’re staying and that’s good as well,” she said.

Pickup is at the Soupateria on Orchard Avenue and those needing assistance should be there by 7:30 p.m.

According to Jim Steele of Environment Canada, the current record low daily temperatures are about -13 C and were set during a cold spell in 1993.

“The big thing is the wind,” he said Thursday. “The wind is just nasty out there, and with temperatures running 10-15 degrees below normal and then put 20 km/h winds in there and it is just bitterly cold.”