Michael Loren, who poses near a photo with deep meaning for him at the home of the Sonlight Kitchen in the Crossroads Free Methodist Church hall, sees a friendship centre as a necessity in providing for the needs of people without housing. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Freezing cold stresses need of drop-in centre for Salmon Arm’s homeless

People without housing keep moving to stay warm, someone freezing a possibility

Traffic is steady at the Sonlight Kitchen on Monday, Jan. 13.

The temperature outside is -19C, minus -22C with the windchill.

People come and go between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, this day partaking in a hot drink, hearty soup and doughnuts for dessert.

They are there for a variety of reasons: they have no housing, their income is scant, they simply want to socialize.

Asked what the community should be doing for people without homes, particularly when the temperature is plummeting, a variety of ideas come up. A repeat suggestion is to open a type of drop-in centre.

Michael Loren is not homeless but he spends a lot of time with those who are because he cares, he says.

He is not alone in saying there needs to be a type of friendship centre, a place open to people all day every day. He says he helped open one in Quesnel when he lived there.

Loren says addictions are a problem, but you can’t let people freeze.

“I care,” he says. “But addicts don’t care about themselves. They’re addicts.”

Loren and a man who prefers to remain anonymous both say they think it’s quite possible someone in Salmon Arm will freeze to death this winter.

Loren estimates there are at least 30 people without housing in Salmon Arm.

Another unnamed man said he would like to see individuals open their doors and not wait for organizations to take charge. Lots of buildings in the community are sitting empty or barely used, he says.

Read more: Affordable housing project in Salmon Arm expected to be complete by winter 2020

Read more: Salmon Arm’s homeless shelter opens, busy immediately

Asked what people are doing to stay warm, those at Sonlight Kitchen who have no housing say they just do what they can.

One man goes to one of the malls for half an hour to warm up. He then heads out and walks around town as long as he can, then returns to the mall for another half hour.

Others go to a variety of places like Tim Hortons, the Salvation Army, Wendy’s, the library – staying as long as they can without overstaying their welcome.

Two people who were interviewed by the Observer before Christmas are still struggling.

Cheyanna Dean and Michael Smith have been staying with a friend in a homemade shelter that barely sleeps three people. Smith subsequently has frostbite in his toes, Dean says, and is walking with a limp. They don’t often stay at the Lighthouse Shelter because it exacerbates Smith’s anxiety, she says.

Read more: It’s getting tougher in Salmon arm to be a person with no housing

Read more: Salmon Arm to chip in $100,000 towards affordable housing project

The Salvation Army’s community services manager, David Byers, says despite frigid temperatures, the Lighthouse Shelter has not been full. On Sunday night, just 10 of 18 beds were used.

“I really assumed with minus 26 or whatever it is right now, we’d have more people here.”

Although there’s a lineup when the doors open at 6 p.m., it’s because people are vying for the bottom bunks.

The shelter is open from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily.

The food bank, in the same building at 441 3rd St. SW, is open 9 to 11 a.m. five days a week, with hours stretched to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and till noon on Monday and Friday. On Wednesday, doors close right at 11 because there’s a meal at the Salvation Army Church, 191 2nd Ave. NE, at 11:30 a.m.



marthawickett@saobserver.net

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