Thanks to B.C. Housing and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Penticton will have two temporary shelters this winter for its homeless population.
1706 Main St. has been turned into a temporary shelter with 27 beds that will operate 24/7 until March 31, 2019. The Salvation Army Penticton’s Compass House at 123 Nanaimo Ave. E. will also act as a supplemental temporary shelter in case the other location reaches capacity.
|While it doesn’t look like much, this building will be acting as Penticton’s temporary shelter this winter. Located at 1706 Main St., this shelter holds 27 beds for those looking to escape the elements at night. Jordyn Thomson/Western News|
“What will happen, if we fill up the 20 beds (at Compass House) and the 27 beds at the shelter, we can take up to eight more people at Compass House, and we’ll just put them on cots in the living room,” said Roger Evans, manager of the Compass House.
Evans explained that this is a provincially-funded initiative and Salvation Army employees will be operating and managing the shelters. They will also be preparing and providing meals, which is also funded by the province.
“I think we’re going to open up, and we’re going to be full,” said Evans. “I don’t think we’ll (run out of room), but if that does happen then we’ll have to liaise with the churches to find space.”
The Compass House can hold up to 58 people, so additional people could be admitted but not everyone would have a bed. The temporary shelter on Main Street can only hold 27 people maximum as regulated by the fire inspector.
Evans said the city is “in a transition period” because they are currently building what will be a permanent shelter at 2604 Skaha Lake Rd. in what used to be a motel.
|A look at the some of the beds in the temporary shelter in 1706 Main St. Beds can be reserved each morning, but call time for the spots is 9 p.m. Jordyn Thomson/Western News|
“It will be a 20 bed shelter, plus a 30 bed winter shelter, all built into the same place,” said Evans. “So I think that will meet our need.”
Evans anticipates in terms of the number of people accessing the temporary shelters, it will likely be the same. These shelters are for adults only and he noted that they are seeing more homeless females each year.
“We’re starting to see an older (homeless) population too, because the Canadian population is aging out and the homeless population is too,” said Lester Patrick, case worker at Compass House with the Penticton Salvation Army. “That’s bringing a lot of challenges because their health is beginning to deteriorate, so it’s a lot worse being on the street with health issues.”
Patrick said anyone who accesses these shelters will be connected to necessary community resources if they require additional support, whether medical or other. Evans said many of the organizations in the community work hard to have open connections with each other to make this network of care easier to access.
The two men said while these shelters don’t service families or children, they “expect everything” and would ensure this demographic receives help if they accessed the service.
|Penticton will have two shelters ready for the cold nights ahead this winter. One will be in the existing Compass House on Nanaimo Ave. and the other is located at 1706 Main St. Jordyn Thomson/Western News.|
While they don’t expect to be overrun, Evans said they are facing new challenges in recent years. He anticipates the Main Street shelter may deal with more drug-related issues because of its location.
“It’s much more complex now, we’re dealing with a lot more addictions issues,” said Evans. “It used to be more alcohol-related, but it’s now drugs. So we have a lot of drug and alcoholism and behavioural issues that come along with that.”
Evans and Patrick said the shelters have worked hard to be “low barrier” so as not to isolate people with addictions. If a person were to have drugs in their possession at one of the shelters, they would be confiscated and held for them in a secure location until they left the shelter.
“They are able to be here under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as long as they can maintain the respectability of the house, and generally we don’t have a lot of issues with that,” said Evans. “We don’t have a lot of rules, but we have enough to keep the structure.”
“The beds are important for them, so they don’t want to jeopardize losing it,” said Patrick. “Because once they do, they’re out on the street sleeping who knows where. And that’s not a good situation.”
Patrick said it is zero tolerance at the shelters for physical and verbal aggression as well. Evans said this is because “it needs to be a safe place for everyone who comes here.”
These shelters can’t accommodate pets, but Evans said they would help find lodging for animals with the SPCA or other local organizations while their owner stays at the shelter. The facility under construction will be pet-friendly.
Beds can be reserved at the shelter on Main Street, but if the person is not there for 9 p.m. that evening, they lose their reservation. If there are still openings, they can be placed in another bed.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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