Kelowna Bylaw warns those on the rail trail to seek shelter with dramatic dip in temperatures

Homeless urged to shelter

Madison Erhardt

Despite Kelowna dropping close to -15 C overnight Tuesday, many living along the rail trail say they are staying put outside.

Kelowna City Bylaw members were out Tuesday morning urging homeless people to head to a shelter.

"They were just letting me know that the shelters have beds and that it is getting cold tonight and snow," Ryan, who lives along the rail trail said.

Ryan says he will not be seeking shelter inside.

"Just lots of blankets and sleeping bags really. People have been doing it for thousands of years right," he said.

A bylaw officer tells Castanet the thermal shelters were administered Tuesday afternoon on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The shelters were distributed at the beginning of February when temperatures dipped below freezing. They were collected by bylaw after the weather event ended.

The foam shelters have the potential to increase the inside temperature between 15 and 18 degrees above the outside temperature, said the city when it revealed them.

"We have people who are sheltering outside on our streets and we do our best to bring people inside where there is space available and we try to meet people who are living outside with the basic needs that they need to get through the cold times, but it is always a very dire, desperate situation," said Kelowna Gospel Mission Executive Director Carmen Rempel.

The city says a 24-passenger warming bus will also be parked along Richter Street and the rail trail from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting Wednesday night, until the morning of Saturday, February 25 and beyond if required.

"Frontline agencies including Commissionaires, Downtown on Call, Bylaw Services, community outreach agencies and RCMP will all be conducting welfare checks. All frontline agencies, including outreach agencies and the Kelowna Fire Department, are equipped with warming supplies and will be directing individuals to any available shelter spaces with the help of theShelter Dashboard," said communications consultant Marnie Douglas.

On Wednesday night Environment Canada forecasts temperatures to dip to -11C with periods of snow.

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