There is no worse thing than not having shelter when the temperature on Penticton streets starts dropping below freezing.
To help out when temperatures start dropping into the double-digits below zero, the province has come up with funding for up to 20 extreme weather shelter spaces this winter.
“These 20 spaces will provide a safe place for shelter during extreme weather,” said Dan Ashton, MLA for Penticton. “Our government understands the life-saving importance of working with communities to develop housing strategies and programs.”
The funding increases the shelter spaces available when weather conditions begin to threaten the health and safety of individuals living on the streets. Since 2009, the Salvation Army and Cheers Church have operated Penticton’s Cold Snap Inn each winter, opening up extra shelter spaces when temperatures drop below -10 C.
“That’s cold when you are out there on the streets at night,” said Joey Cyr, the Salvation Army’s community services supervisor. “We continue to see lots of people come through the doors. As temperatures drop, there is definitely a need.”
Extreme weather shelters supplement the more than 1,800 permanent, year-round shelter beds available in B.C., more than double the number of beds that were available in 2001. Province-wide, homeless outreach teams helped more than 6,700 individuals access stable housing last year.
“There are always people that are in a hard spot and people with mental health issues is huge. I know between us and the (South Okanagan Similkameen) Brain Injury Society, it keeps us pretty busy,” said Cyr. They have had as many as 16 people, he continued, including men, women and young people.
Generally, Cyr said, it’s a quiet shelter.
“I’ve worked that shift a few times. They are cold and hungry, we feed them a hot meal, give them a place to sleep and it goes pretty well,” said Cyr. “It starts at 8 p.m. and if you are out on the streets all day and cold, it drains you.”
The B.C. government is providing up to $1.5 million this winter to make more than 1,100 temporary emergency shelter spaces available in over 80 communities.