City says Out of the Cold will run Stuart Wood shelter until March

Stuart Wood shelter opens

The Stuart Wood school gymnasium will finally open as an emergency winter shelter on Monday night after a week-long delay as the province worked to find an alternate agency to operate the facility.

In late October, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Kamloops branch made a last-minute announcement it would not be operating winter shelters as it has in past years, citing staffing issues and a lack of permanent housing solutions and other supports for the city’s vulnerable population.

This left BC Housing to find another operator for two downtown locations approved by the City of Kamloops for use as shelters — Stuart Wood and the Yacht Club — while the first blast of winter weather saw local agencies stretched to capacity to provide warmth for those on the streets.

The two emergency winter shelter locations were expected to be open on Nov. 1.

In a news release issued Monday evening, the City of Kamloops announced local agency Out of the Cold will be operating the Stuart Wood facility from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., seven days a week.

Out of the Cold initially planned to partner with CMHA Kamloops to operate the Stuart Wood shelter as it did last year.

Byron McCorkell, the city’s community and protective services director, thanked Out of the Cold and BC Housing for “their dedication to getting this shelter up and running so quickly.”

“It’s important for the safety of staff and shelter guests that staff have the appropriate training and resources to meet the needs of the people staying at the shelter, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” McCorkell said.

According to the City of Kamloops, the Stuart Wood shelter will have space for 24 individuals, plus some additional seated warming spaces. The shelter will be open each night until March 31.

In addition to the winter shelter, ASK Wellness has opened 24/7 warming centres at Spero House, at 317 Tranquille Rd., and Crossroads Inn, located at 569 Seymour St.

The warming stations will operate during the current cold snap, and will remain open until Friday.

The Loop drop-in centre has been opening its doors to dozens of residents looking to take shelter from the cold, picking up people who weren’t able to get into beds operated by other agencies, many of whom have reported being at capacity in their facilities.

McCorkell told Castanet Kamloops in an email that The Loop has now been advised to direct anyone seeking shelter to Stuart Wood.

McCorkell said the city had previously advised The Loop “what would need to take place for it to be as safe as possible” for use as a shelter due to the delay in finding a winter shelter operator, but noted the property isn’t zoned or approved for such an operation.

According to the City of Kamloops, Interior Community Services have also extended the hours of their downtown youth outreach centre. Residents 25 years old or younger can access the warming centre until 8 p.m. this week.

According to the city, BC Housing is continuing to work with the community to build capacity and offer more solutions for those in need.

The city said police, Community Services Officers and outreach workers are working to bring vulnerable people into warm spaces.

Residents should call Community Services at 250-828-3409 if they see anyone who looks like they need help.

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