Kelowna is about to pilot a warming bus to help people living with homelessness survive the cold as temperatures dip below -10 this week.
Mayor Tom Dyas tells Castanet the bus, modelled on the Turning Points Collaborative Society's bus in Vernon, is set to launch tonight as part of a pilot project.
It will be deployed for four nights, to gauge interest and determine whether it’s something that could be added to the regular toolkit of services offered for people living rough on the city’s streets.
The idea came out of a meeting the mayor and city councillor Loyal Wooldridge recently held with service providers.
If the warming bus proves successful, Mayor Dyas says they would consider something similar to help the homeless population stay cool during extreme heat events as well.
Another item that came out of the discussion with the service providers was the concept of a permanent shelter.
“They said can we work towards this? And I said this is a great idea. This is something that potentially we can look at and work towards, but that would be a longer vision,” said Dyas. “Right now we have a situation where there’s three or four months of cold weather. This isn’t going to happen within that period of time. So we’ve got an acute situation. What do we do with the acute situation?”
He says that’s where staff and the service providers jumped in with the warming bus proposal and got to work on making it happen.
The bus, which is being funded by BC Housing, will be operational between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The city will monitor extreme weather to assess the length of the initiative.
The warming centre on wheels will be parked outside the temporary designated shelter site at the intersection of Richter St. and the Okanagan Rail Trail.
It's operated by a private contractor and will have seating for 24 people.
The forecast calls for overnight lows of -16 C tonight, 12 C on Friday and -11 C on Saturday.