Emergency shelters gear up for winter

With winter just around the corner and Jack Frost already nipping at our nose, Kelowna’s emergency shelters are gearing up for another busy season.

Last weekend was a full house for Inn from the Cold, an emergency shelter service that operates from November to April in Kelowna. It offered a warm bed to 20 men and eight women during its nightly intake on Saturday evening and was at full capacity overnight.

The shelter has space for 33 people, plus two more beds that are available for emergency overnight referrals – typically set aside for those recommended by case workers, who know of people with no other options to stay warm.

“If they're unable to stay in any housing or any other facilities in the community, then they are referred to Inn from the Cold, so we take those first, then after that its on a first come, first serve basis,” says Coordinator, Tara Tschritter

The nightly intake occurs between 7-8 p.m. and goes in priority sequence with people with pets, couples and those with health concerns getting first crack at any open beds.

“Everyone is supposed to be here by 8 p.m. at night, we do however accept people later at night if we have space. People will have their bunks and lockers for the duration of their stay as long as they return by 8 p.m. the next night,” says Tschritter, meaning that people can keep their bed from the night before, as long as they show up during intake the following evening.

Inn from the Cold uses between 200-300 volunteers during the winter months, and must close its doors if unable to fill the nightly shifts. They also rely on people to bring down food each evening – it usually costs between $80-100 per night to feed 35 people.

Warm clothing is always needed too, with Tschritter saying men’s coats, and pants go a long way to help their clientele, in addition to boots and mitts for men and woman, and toques and toothbrushes for everyone.

Another local not-for-profit that serves the community is the Gospel Mission, which operates 365 days a year to those in need and offers 90 beds in its emergency shelter, with room for extra mats on the floor if needed.

The mission’s communications person, Ami Catriona, says its still business as usual despite the falling temperatures, but they do have a cold winter protocol in place when temperatures reach a certain level.

“It goes into place throughout the city for all the non-profits to deal with people who are potentially homeless, in which we open our doors 24-7,” says Catriona. “People can come in and be warm and have a cup of coffee, be safe from the cold and that kind of thing.”

The Gospel Mission’s annual ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign saw hundreds of items donated over the weekend, but Catriona says they’re always looking for men’s jeans and long underwear.

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