The West Kelowna Shelter Society operates out of the Westbank United Church. (Phil McLachlan - West K News)

The West Kelowna Shelter Society operates out of the Westbank United Church. (Phil McLachlan - West K News)

Enough shelter spaces as temperatures dip in Kelowna, West Kelowna

Local advocates say this is thanks to collaboration between various agencies

Every time the mercury dips below freezing, advocates and shelter volunteers often worry about residents who are experiencing homelessness.

However, this year there is less to be concerned about.

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission executive director Carmen Rempel said compared to past years, shelters in the city are a lot more prepared, with enough beds for those who need to get out of the harsh overnight temperatures.

“Our shelters are full and they have been full and as we added beds, they’ve continuously filled up,” Rempel said.

“I don’t think there have been very many nights at all where we haven’t been completely maxed out. Our understanding is that everybody who wants to be inside can be inside this winter.”

The biggest change, she said, is that more people want to stay indoors throughout the day instead of just coming to the shelters at night.

She said different agencies in Kelowna and West Kelowna, in collaboration with BC Housing and Journey Home, have all worked hard in keeping people warm as temperatures continue to dip.

Metro Community’s executive director Amber Webster-Kotak said the Welcome Inn’s 39 beds have all been occupied since opening in November.

“I would say we are certainly seeing those people who are the last to come in, starting to seek shelter a bit more keenly this time around, asking if they can get a bed with us or asking where else they can get a bed,” she said.

“Right now, we’re enjoying a great sense of collaboration between the various emergency winter shelters and the existing shelters.”

She said shelter guests are also more likely to stay indoors all day, but some still leave to go about their day.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for the Central Okanagan forecasting temperatures in the region to be between 10 and 20 degrees cooler than seasonal average.

An Arctic outflow warning is possible beginning Wednesday (Feb. 10) night as wind chill values approach – 20C.

Shelters in both Kelowna and West Kelowna are always open to help. This winter, they’re asking for warm clothes and other items like hand warmers, gloves, and toques. The West Kelowna Shelter Society launched its Backpack Essentials program in January and is still looking for items to fill backpacks for use by those living in the streets.

Clothing donations to the Mission can be dropped off at their thrift store on Roxby Road in Rutland. Donations to the Welcome Inn can be dropped off at the shelter.

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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