Shelter space opened across B.C. for homeless to self isolate

COVID-19 shelters opened

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, shelter space is being temporarily opened at hotels, motels and community centres across the province, for those without housing who need to self isolate.

Tuesday morning, the province announced the creation of just 20 spaces at one site in Kelowna. Vernon will see 84 spaces between two sites, Penticton has 19 spaces at two sites and Kamloops has 50 spaces at two sites.

Province-wide, more than 900 new shelter spaces have been opened at 23 sites. While the province says they are not identifying the location of these sites due to privacy reasons, they have disclosed that 70 of the Vernon spaces are located at the Vernon Curling Club.

"These new spaces are a critical part of how we can support those who are vulnerable in our community, including those who are experiencing homelessness or living in communal locations where the virus could spread more quickly," said Selina Robinson, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

In the Central Okanagan, emergency winter shelters like the Welcome Inn, on Kelowna's Ellis Street, and West Kelowna's shelter on Stevens Road have closed for the season. Dozens of people without homes have since moved back to the city-sanctioned homeless camp on Recreation Avenue, where “physical distancing” is difficult.

Meanwhile, residents of the Fuller Avenue temporary housing unit have since moved into Rutland's new Samuel Place supportive housing development on McIntosh Road.

Some of the new shelter spaces will be for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to recover, while others are for those who don't have the virus and have been discharged from the hospital, but still require care.

Some of the 23 locations in the province are already operational, while the rest are expected to be up and running in the coming days and weeks. Health authorities, working with BC Housing, will be referring those who are able to use the new spaces. The day-to-day management of the sites will be operated by local non-profit societies.

The province says the program is able to expand in some communities if a need is identified by a health authority, but it's unclear if this expansion is available in Kelowna, where just 20 new spaces have been opened.

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