Yacht Club approved for use as temporary winter shelter, operator yet to be identified

Shelter operator sought

The Yacht Club and the former Stuart Wood schoolhouse have once again been identified as temporary shelter locations for this winter, but so far, an operator has only been secured for one of the sites.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, said council authorized a short-term facility licence for shelter use at the Yacht Club in mid-July.

“Staff are in consistent contact in meetings with BC Housing. BC Housing were informed within days of the council decision, and were encouraged at the time to identify and secure an operator as soon as possible,” Mazzotta said.

“Similar to last year, bookings in the space have been notified and relocated to other community facilities.”

BC Housing has yet to announce an operator for the Yacht Club.

Last year, the Mustard Seed Kamloops stepped up to operate the temporary shelter at the Yacht Club after the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Kamloops branch announced in late October it wouldn’t be operating winter shelter facilities as it had in past years.

The 20-bed shelter ran through the winter, offering hot meals, showers, washroom facilities and connections to supports.

Out of the Cold has been operating an overnight, 25-bed shelter at Stuart Wood, located at 245 St. Paul St., since November 2022.

Mazzotta told council the city has received approval from Tk’emlups te Secwepemc to operate the shelter over the winter season. Staff are requesting approval from the Crown to use the site, which Mazzotta said was a “simple procedural step.”

“They’re well aware of the site and the use,” he said.

He added Out of the Cold has done a lot of work to build relationships with neighbours and community groups which used the site.

Mazzotta said Kamloops Alliance Church and the Mustard Seed are also discussing once again teaming up to operate a 30-bed extreme weather response shelter in the North Shore church.

In a report to council, staff noted Kamloops’ shelter system includes a total of 190 shelter beds. If the Yacht Club and church sites are operationalized, there will be 210 beds, and 240 beds in periods of extreme weather.

The 2021 Point in Time count identified 206 unhoused people in the city, and while this year’s results have yet to be released, the city noted preliminary data indicates a “substantive increase” in the number of people who may be in need of temporary shelter.

In response to a question from Coun. Katie Neustaeter, Mazzotta said as of Tuesday’s meeting, Stuart Wood was the only temporary winter shelter space which had a confirmed operator.

“That right now, in terms of identified operators that BC Housing has in place, is it. The productive conversations happening between Kamloops Alliance Church and the Mustard Seed is great. And we hope that those result in an extreme weather response shelter,” he said.

Mazzotta noted that partners are working to find a site for a North Shore Access Hub, and setting up a winter shelter at that location would be “the immediate need that we strive to achieve with our partners in time for this winter.”

“The Yacht Club, we hope to see an operator in place in time for November 1 opening,” Mazzotta said.

Neustaeter said she didn't understand why operators can’t be secured more quickly.

“It ends up in this horrendous position that compromises lives — that happened last year — as well as blows back on the city. Residents are rightfully frustrated when there's no communication that comes forward, and it's because of a failure to secure the operator,” she said.

“That's something that I hope the public becomes aware of, and there is pressure applied externally to get that secured more quickly.”

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