KAMLOOPS — The snow and cold came early to Kamloops this year. And while warmer weather is on the horizon, for those living on the streets of our city the early cold snap has meant searching out those social services sooner than normal.
It’s been a busy first week for the new cold weather shelter at the former Stuart Wood school. The shelter opened last Wednesday, and since then has seen as many as 64 people access the facility in one night.
“Last Wednesday we had 19 clients, Thursday we had 42, Friday night we had 64, Saturday night we had 58, and [Sunday] night we had 51,” Executive Director of the Kamloops branch of the CMHA, Christa Mullaly told CFJC Today.
The shelter is being operated by the city of Kamloops and the Canadian Mental Health Association. Mullaly says she expects those numbers to continue to rise, as more people learn about the amenities available for those in need.
“Of the folks that we're seeing here about a third of them are folks that we’ve seen before,” Mullaly says. “The other two-thirds are simply folks we haven’t seen before.”
Mullaly calls the shelter low barrier, meaning those who want to access the services aren’t asked to divulge too much or give up anything when they come in from the cold.
“We allow people to come in as they are. People don’t need to give us any contraband, or any drugs they’ve got on their person. We just ask people be in this space in a respectful way, and that if they need to use, that they’re not doing it out in the open here.”
As people come in, Mullaly says they’re offered a meal, a place to stay, and also given the option to access case management services through CMHA. So far, those taking shelter at Stuart Wood have been receptive to the offer of help.
“Over 50% of the folks who have come in here have said they’re interested in case management services. Within that, our challenge is finding housing for people… that’s safe, affordable, and sustainable.”
While the forecast is set to up later this week, that warmer weather can mean more precipitation, making things even more difficult for those trying to survive without a place to call home.
Mullaly says the shelter always welcomes donations. Some of the items they need are towels, bedding, toiletries, and socks. Those donations can be dropped off at the CMHA Clubhouse, located at 857 Seymour Street between 8:30 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. Monday to Friday.
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