Gospel Mission to restrict access to shelter residents only

Shelter moves to limit access

Sarita Patel

The Kelowna Gospel Mission will be shutting its doors to the public starting Wednesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With border access restricted, major sporting events being suspended and even major corporations shutting their doors, the mission decided to take measures of their own. 

“Starting this week we’re going to be cutting back to just essential services, which is food and shelter for the people which are registered as guests here,” explains Randy Benson, executive director at the Kelowna Gospel Mission. 

That means the day service will no longer be available to outside users. 

“We’ve changed our dining hall set-up to only eight tables, four to a table so that there’s more social distance there,” says Benson. 

Benson says they’ve added a washing station at the entrance of the building and they’ve suspended their volunteer program to prevent cross-contamination between them and the patrons.  

The government is recommending those who experiencing any symptoms to self-quarantine for 14-days, but having a 76-bed dorm at the mission could make it difficult. 

“If somebody does show symptoms there are protocols - for them to wear a mask and that sort of thing. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to room for a self-isolation.”

He says if someone does get the symptoms they will contact Interior Health to get the best advice and take direction from them. 

The mission has not been impacted by the bare shelves at grocery stores across the Okanagan, partly because they order their food through bulk suppliers. They do still rely on the generosity of the public for financial aid and food donations and are willing to pick up any food that wants to be donated.

Benson is in his final year with the mission, and after 19 years, he says this is the first time they’ve had to take such an extreme measure of closing their doors to the public. 

“This is the time that we’ve had to take measures as drastic as this and like everybody else, we hope that this is going to flatten the curve and we’re going to see this pass through our community faster than slower,” adds Benson. 

Benson laughed saying after 19 years, “this is a nice way to go I guess”
“I’ve got a great staff, we’ve got a supportive community and again we’re trying to put out that message that this isn’t the time to panic and fear - this is the time to come together and to realize that we’re strong together, we have hope and we’re going to get through this.

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