Should temporary winter homeless shelters be dropped and replaced by more year-round accommodation?

Poll: Winter shelters

Service providers across the Thompson-Okanagan are calling for action on housing the homeless as winter puts them at risk.

In a letter to mayors and councils, BC Housing, and Interior Health, the shelter and outreach operators are saying "no more" to an incomplete continuum of care.

"For the past several years, the response has been to set up winter mat shelter programs. Many operators have already been asked if we can step up again to run temporary winter shelter programs. This year, many of the operators in Vernon, Penticton, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Merritt, and Kamloops are saying no more," the group says.

"Temporary shelter programs are rife with problems for operators and the vulnerable and complex persons they serve.

"The cycle of bringing challenging persons in from the cold, to shelter them in the most basic of temporary shelters, to provide the barest of supports, to make limited investment in health, skills, and real housing; and then to have them exited back to the streets on the first day of spring with a tent and well wishes, has become an exercise in futility at best.

"While it may provide an escape from the cold, it is a sickeningly purposeless proposition to consider this a solution to the humanitarian crisis we are facing.

"We are tired of the futility of winter mat shelters. We are tired of seeing no meaningful outcome to the cycle of indoor cold winter shelter and outdoor summer tenting areas. We are tired of knowing that the brevity of both the investment and the stay means health will not improve, permanent housing will not materialize, and nothing will change."

Signatories to the letter include Vernon's Turning Points Collaborative Society, the Kelowna Gospel Mission, Penticton and District Society for Community Living, Kamloops' ASK Wellness Society, the Okanagan-Kootenay John Howard Society, and Nicola Valley Shelter & Support Society.

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