Homeless shelters filling up

The demand for emergency homeless shelters in Penticton is up this year compared to past years, according to the manager of two facilities.

Roger Evans said the Compass House, a 16-bed facility on Nanaimo Avenue, has been at capacity during the holidays.

Meanwhile, Compass Court, a 28-bed emergency shelter on Main Street that opened last month, is at "about three-quarters capacity," Evans said.

The two facilities are operated by the Salvation Army, which has provided about a dozen extra beds during this cold season compared to a year ago.

Evans said the number of people using emergency shelters is "much more than last year," but he pointed out the numbers often drop off for at least a few days around Christmas. 

"Normally at Christmas, the Compass House would get low on people — who go home or do whatever they're doing — but this year we stayed full."

With the "unusual" amount of people around for Christmas, the Salvation Army decided to host a Christmas dinner for the first time at the two facilities.

While the amount of people using shelters is high, Evans added there are still homeless people on the streets who opt not to seek shelter — despite frigid temperatures and snow.

"I know there's still some on the street, and I know them by name... You'd think it's cold enough for people to come in," he said.

"Some of them just don't like the shelter environment. Groups of people that you don't know, stuff like that."

While demand is not at 100 per cent for the Salvation Army shelters yet, Evans said he expects the facilities will be at full capacity very soon — with snow and frigid temperatures expected to persist

"I think that'll drive people in."

He added there are seven "overflow" beds available at Compass House, should the Compass Court reach full capacity at any point, which would make a total of 51 shelter beds available.

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