Four new, female-only beds are available for women with no place to go this winter when weather becomes a factor.
The Lighthouse Penticton Low Barrier Shelter Society is going to be operating the beds under the emergency weather response protocol — opening beds when the weather dips below -5 degrees Celsius or in inclement weather conditions.
Women who arrive at the Salvation Army’s Compass House will take a taxi to a local motel where the beds have been designated.
“It’s a start, I’m guessing we’re going to need more, but for now it’s better than we’ve ever had,” said Marie Verge with Lighthouse Penticton.
Compass House is now strictly for men during cold weather response, with 26 beds available Verge said.
“If push comes to shove I believe Compass House will find the space for more women, but we’re starting out with that to see what we can do,” Verge said.
Emergency weather response beds have changed throughout the years, weather used to have to reach -10C or 30 or more centimetres of snow, and beds would rotate between churches in town.
“That would be a little inconvenient because you had to take all the bed rolls from church to church, and you never knew which church it was going to be,” Verge said.
Cheers Church eventually became the central location for men and women facing homelessness. The entirety of the operations were then moved to Compass House last winter, which was operating as a high-barrier shelter.
“Throughout the winter there was a lot of feedback from the community so they changed it to a low-barrier shelter,” Verge said.
Women who go to the local motel will receive a light dinner and coffee in the morning. Last year, women and men were mixed at Compass House, with two pregnant women using the beds as well.
“It just wasn’t an ideal environment for women and men to be sharing a floor together,” Verge said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a mild winter, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The funding came from BC Housing for the women-only beds. Fundraisers are continuing to support the homeless population in Penticton.