The Salvation Army’s Roger Evans in one of the units of the recently opened Compass Court shelter located at the former Super 8 Motel located in the 1700-block of Main Street.                                Mark Brett/Western News

The Salvation Army’s Roger Evans in one of the units of the recently opened Compass Court shelter located at the former Super 8 Motel located in the 1700-block of Main Street. Mark Brett/Western News

Shelter beds more than double in Penticton, but more people in need

Compass Court shelter adds 27 new beds, but one non-profit operator is concerned that’s not enough

A new homeless shelter at the former Super 8 motel in Penticton has officially opened up, adding 27 new beds for what appears to be a growing issue of homelessness in the city.

Work is still being done to convert much of the motel into low-income housing, adding 42 units to Penticton’s affordable housing stock, but that’s just part of the operations that will be running out of the former motel, now called Compass Court.

Related: Super 8 getting more than social housing

Just a couple of months after council gave the project an easy pass after an uneventful public hearing in August, the Salvation Army has 27 new shelter beds set up in an area that previously housed the reception area of the motel, on top of 17 beds that are still being run out of Compass House downtown.

Although the new shelter is intended to be primarily for the winter shelter, which opens up during certain weather conditions, it will also act as an overflow space for the shelter at Compass House, and the Salvation Army made use of a few of the beds for the first time Wednesday night.

“We didn’t fill up, but probably about just under half,” said shelter operator Roger Evans.

Related: Super 8 social housing gets easy pass in public hearing

Related: Data shows growing amount of income spent on housing

Evans said he has noticed a lot more demand for shelter space than last year, which he said he believes to be indicative of a growing number of homeless in Penticton.

“I think there’s very definitely more need this year. Just by the number of people that are coming to our door now, and the number of people that we have been referring to our winter shelter,” Evans said.

“There just seems to be a lot more people on the street.”

South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society executive director Linda Sankey said she has also seen the number of homeless in Penticton rise significantly.

Related: City must ‘atone’ for its part in housing crisis: city planner

Related: Moving forward from Highland Motel fire

“The numbers seem almost double. Almost, not quite double from what we were dealing with last year,” Sankey said, adding the newly homeless are mostly from Penticton.

“The issues of poverty, not enough funds to cover rental costs, are pushing people into homelessness more this year than we’ve ever seen before.”

Story continues below.

One of the lobby areas of the newly opened Compass Court shelter on Main Street, which operator Roger Evans said he was happy to see become a more home-like environment for shelter patrons.
Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton has been facing a housing crisis in the city, with a short rental stock and a near-zero vacancy rate. A recent Western News feature highlighted the crisis with a family forced to camp in the hills above Carmi, where that family says several others of varying ages have also been forced to call home.

On Penticton Indian Band land, Laverne Jack said he is housing a couple and another man with nowhere to go on his campgrounds.

Related: PIB man offering cheap campsites during housing crisis

Related: The people of Carmi hill

“There’s a lot of people that are trying to find spots to move indoors, but it’s all precarious housing in the sense it’s more of a couchsurfing kind of situation,” Sankey said. “Until people can actually afford their own spot or actually secure their own housing, there’s a lot of people that can’t afford it.”

Even by more than doubling the number of shelter beds with Compass Court, Evans said he’s hoping the shelter’s capacity won’t be stretched by the growing issue of homelessness as winter approaches.

“The demand is going to get heavy,” Evans said. “We’ll do a backflow to Compass House if we fill up at the shelter.”

Sankey expressed some concern the shelter would quickly fill up as sub-zero temperatures become the nighttime norm.

Related: Motel fire highlights Penticton’s housing crisis

Related: Nearly two-in-five renters living in inadequate housing: report

“I have a feeling that they’re going to very quickly be found out about in the homeless community and they’re going to be full before very long, I think,” Sankey said.

And winter weather is effectively here — according to Environment Canada Penticton was expected to dip down to -3C Thursday night and between -4 C and -9 C through the weekend, with snow also in the forecast.

Last year, operators of the shelter went to council asking for guidance on when to open the shelter. Previously, the cold snap shelter had opened up when temperatures dipped to -5 and during freezing rain and snow conditions, but council endorsed pushing that temperature up to -2 C.

The request for input came after a controversial winter for the shelter the year previous, when advocates with Keep the Cold Off Penticton and others led a public outcry, calling for clearer rules on when the shelter would open.

Related: Cost of housing continues to skyrocket in South Okanagan

Related: High demand and few listings cause soaring house prices

This year, Evans said the shelter will be opening at 0 C, a decision he said was made by the community.

“I think it’s just a recognition that at zero, even with a slight wind it’s cold.”


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Third-year UBCO nursing student Thomas Pool works alongside community volunteer and registered nurse Sean Garden, as they check drug samples at Living Positive Resource Centre in downtown Kelowna (UBCO)
UBCO drug checking service now offered across Okanagan

The program is in partnership with Interior Health

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Oliver police looking for man accused in robbery and assault at pot shop

The man allegedly assaulted an employee at the BC Cannabis Store

Dahlia and Derek Millington have been hard at work turning the old Post Office building in Okanagan Falls into their new Little Falls Foods grocery. They're aiming to have it open in early May. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Okanagan Falls is getting a grocery store once again

Little Falls Foods will open in the former post office building

Oliver RCMP arrested a man spotted with a handgun sticking out of his pants on March 2. (File)
Oliver man arrested for having a handgun in his waistband near a bank

A sawed-off shotgun was also seized from his vehicle

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

Lake Country singer Payton Bischoff is featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
WATCH: Okanagan talents shine under online spotlight

12-year-old from Lake Country, Enderby singer-songwriter-guitarist and Kelowna duo in Focus

B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Shuswap Search and Rescue volunteers were on Owlhead to retrieve a couple who called for help after one of their sleds became stuck on Tuesday, March 2, 2020. (Shuswap Search and Rescue/Facebook photo)
Shuswap Search and Rescue retrieve couple from Owlhead

Call for help made after sled became stuck

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

(Government of B.C.)

Most Read