Low temperatures and bitterly cold winds are once again raising concerns for Penticton’s homeless.
With the wind chill on Wednesday expected to hit the -22 C mark, beds for those without a roof of their heads in the city are at a premium but manager Roger Evans, of the Salvation Army’s Compass House says they will do whatever it takes to provide shelter for those seeking refuge from the elements.
“It’s brutal out there, nobody will be turned away,” said Evans, who added both facilities (including Winter Shelter at 1706 Main St.) are running at capacity and overflow. “We can still take more. Even if we can just offer them a chair for the night we will bring them in from this cold.
“With the cold that is out there right now, especially tonight (Tuesday) I think is going to be the cold one, it’s going to drive some of these people in so we’ll keep them warm for the night.”
Along with the warmth, winter shelter provides a hot breakfast and dinner to those there as part of the Emergency Weather Response program that runs from late November to March and is funded by the provincial government.
“If you are homeless and need a temporary place to stay, please call us at 250-488-7125 or come to our door,” reads the Salvation Army website about the shelters.
Winter shelter has a 27-bed capacity and is full most nights according to Evans and is a temporary facility while a permanent one is being built further south on Skaha Lake Road.
Compass House, located at 123 Nanaimo Ave. E. is a year-round, 20-bed emergency shelter for men and women providing three meals a day and a wide range of support and care services.
According to Evans, in addition to the regular beds, there were eight cots in use Monday night to accommodate the overflow.
He added that sadly, no matter how cold the temperature is, there are still some people who choose to remain outside at night.
“There is one particular individual who is sleeping in the breezeway downtown. I was sitting at the table at the CAST (Community Active Support Table) meeting and we were just talking about him today (Tuesday). Myself and the housing co-ordinator are going to try to connect with him and get him to come into the shelter if he will,” said Evans. “Some people just do not want to come into a shelter, some of them have lots of difficulty with large groups of people, they don’t play nicely, so they just don’t come in. It’s good self insight, I think they know they won’t do well in the shelter environment, this is communal living.
“We don’t generally go out looking for people but sometimes we do go out periodically and we walk the streets early in the morning to see if we can find people.”
Evans said most of those they help at the shelters are just grateful to be in out of the cold and he and the people who work with him are glad to be able to help.
“To me this is ministry, this is what it’s all about. Most days you go home with a good feeling in your stomach.”
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