Out of the Cold executive director says 25-bed shelter at Stuart Wood at full capacity nightly

Stuart Wood full each night

The executive director for Out of the Cold, which runs a shelter in the former Stuart Wood schoolhouse, says the location has been at full capacity each night since it started year-round operations in November 2022.

Out of the Cold operated the Stuart Wood shelter during the 2021-2022 winter season. The shelter was reopened, with Out of the Cold once again helming operations, in November 2022. BC Housing then extended its lease throughout 2023 and into 2024.

Renee Stein said Out of the Cold is under contract until the end of April, and is working with BC Housing and the City of Kamloops regarding future operations.

“It is our hope that we will be able to continue operations, because we have not had an empty bed once since we started providing care at this site,” Stein said.

Stein said with the temporary winter shelter at the Yacht Club closing for the season, an additional 20 people will require support.

“We're really looking to continue to be sustainable, and really thankful for all the support we've gotten so far," she said.

The 25-bed shelter at Stuart Wood is open each night from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. Stein said guests can access food, clothing and showers, and staff will try to find alternate beds for anyone seeking a place to stay after the shelter is at capacity.

She said this winter season — from November 2023 until March 2024 — Out of the Cold provided more than 10,230 meals, and gave out 939 clothing donation items.

Recovery programs launched

This year, a couple of recovery programs have also started up — which Stein noted has been “very successful.”

Programming includes Stories of Hope, where each week, a different community member will share their personal recovery journey.

A SMART recovery group meets weekly. Stein said participants in this program receive coping strategies and methods to work through triggers, and set goals to move towards whatever sobriety looks like for them.

"It's not just a support meeting, it's actually looking at sustainable recovery,” Stein said.

Out of the Cold has also offered men’s and women’s communication classes, and an anger management group is set to begin.

She said Out of the Cold has helped six people obtain housing, two people access treatment, and two people return to their home communities.

Many reasons for seeking shelter

Stein said she has seen a continual increase of people seeking shelter who are not chronically homeless, but are “situationally homeless,” unable to afford market rent.

“We're also, as I've mentioned before, seeing an increase in seniors seeking shelter and folks who have been accessing the hospital on more of a longer-term basis are requiring shelter supports,” Stein said.

She noted one senior woman sought shelter as her partner was in the hospital for a longer-term stay. This woman didn’t have the ability to transport herself to and from her home community, and couldn’t afford alternate accommodation.

“We do have a multitude of different reasons why people access shelter — and I think it's really important that we understand that it's not just somebody who's chronically homeless with perhaps addictions and mental health concerns, that there's a wide variety of reasons that folks might require emergency housing,” Stein said.

“That's why I think that it's so incredibly important to be able to retain as many beds as we can in our community, knowing that our community is just continually growing.”

Stein said she is grateful to the community for their support, adding the shelter shares space with multiple daycares and a private school which all use the outdoor park space.

“We’ve had wonderful support from all of them and from our neighbourhoods,” she said.

“I would like to give a big thank you to all of them for recognizing the good work that’s being done here, but also how we are all better together.”

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