Kelowna's Gospel Mission

Kelowna's Gospel Mission

Shelter beds fill following cold snap

Shelters from Penticton to Salmon Arm are almost at capacity as temperatures dip to -20 C overnight.

As a cold front closes in on the Okanagan those less fortunate are having to hard time finding a place to keep warm overnight.

Beds at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission were all taken Monday night as temperatures dipped down to -20 C.

Mike Morrison with the Gospel Mission said the shelter has 100 beds for both men and women; however last night mats had to be put on the floor to accommodate more people.

“This cold spell has just started so we have opened up during the day and will keep open as long as it is below zero,” he said.

Monday night 105 people stayed at the Gospel Mission, while Jan. 2 it was even busier with 110 clients using the shelter. On the night of Jan. 1, Morrison said 108 people spent the night while just over 80 used the shelter on New Years Eve.

“With this cold we are seeing our numbers pop up above 100 which means we have to put mats on the floor,” he said. “There is pretty well us, Inn from the Cold and Now Canada as emergency shelters. So if people aren’t using these shelters I don’t know where they would go.”

Morrison expects the Gospel Mission will be full again Tuesday night as temperatures are expected to drop to -20 C again.

In comparison, at the Salvation Army Men’s Shelter in Penticton not every bed was taken during Monday night’s cold snap.

Rodger Evans with the Salvation Army said he is surprised the 26 beds were not all used.

“We also have an overflow space at Cheers Church, which is where the women go,” he said. “We have another 26 beds there, but they were not full either.”

Temperatures were a tad warmer to the south than in Kelowna; however the mercury still dipped to -15 C overnight.

“We didn’t turn anyone away, I am not sure where they were staying if they didn’t come here,” explained Evans.

It was a full house at shelters in the North Okangan on Monday night.

Kelly Fehr with the John Howard Society in Vernon, said the 55 beds at the John Howard House and the 25 beds at the Gateway Shelter were all used – along with several mats.

“I suspect it will be full again tonight and our outreach team is back in full swing this week after the holidays, to connect with anyone still outside,” said Fehr.

Although the shelter’s in Vernon were full, Fehr said there is extra space available thanks to recent funding from BC Housing that has allowed for more mats to be placed on the ground.

“If BC Housing had not given us 10 extra mats and extra staffing at Howard House and three extra mats at Gateway, given this past December, then we would have a lot more people sleeping outside. We wouldn’t have the room, so this makes a huge difference.”

Both the Gateway Shelter and the John Howard House are open 24 hours for those who need to use services.

Over in Salmon Arm, David Byers with the Salvation Army was shocked the shelter wasn’t full with only seven beds being used Monday night.

“We have never actually reached capacity this winter, and our capacity is 16 beds for men and women,” explained Byers.

He says he can’t believe people are still sleeping outside when the shelter still has room.

“I know of two people who slept in tents last night, it’s too cold for that,” he said. “I have had a few calls today though after last night from people so I do expect we might be close to capacity. One man slept in a bank (foyer) and it wasn’t comfortable so he is planning on staying here tonight.”

The Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Shelter isn’t open during the day; however the New Hope Church is open in the afternoons during the week for those who need a place to stay warm.