Stuart Wood shelter among city strategies to reduce homelessness

By Jill Sperling
October 12, 2017 - 4:12pm Updated: October 12, 2017 - 6:24pm

KAMLOOPS — Since June of last year, Stuart Wood School has sat empty. However, this winter it will be given new life as a safe haven for the city's homeless population. 

"We had the space available," said acting mayor Arjun Singh. "It's obviously not used right now, and we're still waiting for some discussions to go through in terms of the final use for that building, so it was an ideal position for us to utilize it for the extreme weather shelter, just the gym portion, for the wintertime." 

The temporary shelter is fully funded by BC Housing, and will be operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association. 

"We've been operating as part of Emerald Centre an Extreme Weather Response for the last number of years," CMHA Kamloops Executive Director Christa Mullaly said, "and how we've traditionally operated it is we don't turn anyone away when extreme weather is activated. We're going to follow that same principal this year, we're just super excited to have a much bigger space to be able to accommodate folks."

The winter shelter will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week between Nov. 1 and March 31.

Those using the shelter will be provided with a safe place to sleep, two meals, and information on accessing services within the community. 

"We're going to have 50 mats at the school," Mullaly said. "That will be a starting place for us based on numbers we experienced last year and throughout the spring and summer this year, but we're going to make sure that we're not going to turn anyone away as well, so if someone presents for shelter, they're going to get it."

In addition to the winter shelter, the City is also looking into possible locations for temporary and permanent housing. 

"Essentially what we want to do, is we want to find temporary modular shelter locations so we can actually accomodate more folks who are looking for that temporary housing situation, and then through that work them through to a more permanent situation," Singh said. 

Meantime, the City is working with local non-profits to set up a mini-storage facility for people who have no homes in which to store their belongings. 

"We're almost ready to start that up," Singh said. "People will have an opportunity to put their stuff in a safe place, lock it up, and then go out and try and find services, try and find work if that's what they're looking for, and be able to come back and know that their stuff is safe." 

The housing announcements were made at City Hall as part of Homelessness Action Week. 

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