A charity that helps operate temporary shelters in Kamloops, B.C., says it will no longer run two winter shelters scheduled to open next week, citing disappointment in municipal and provincial officials’ efforts to provide housing for people who need it.
Alfred Achoba, executive director of the Kamloops branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), says the organization will withdraw its commitment to B.C. Housing to operate temporary shelters in the Yacht Club and the gymnasium of the permanently-closed Stuart Wood Elementary School, both city-owned properties located downtown.
While the organization faces staffing challenges, Achoba says the bigger reason behind their decision was what he describes as a lack of effort from the city and province to provide more housing units for people who need it.
“We have folks averaging almost two years in shelter trying to find housing,” he said.
“We’ve gotten to the point where it isn’t feasible to open another shelter when we have people currently in shelter that could not go anywhere.
“People need to be able to go from streets to shelter, from shelter to housing, and we don’t have that — shelters seem to be the last stop now on that continuum, so that needs to be fixed.”
The Yacht Club site, located at 1140 River Rd., can accommodate up to 15 shelter units, while the school gymnasium on 245 St Paul St. can accommodate up to 24.
The CMHA says it serves 200 people per night in the other shelters it runs, including Merit Place, Moira House, Emerald Centre, Mustard Seed and Harbour House, which altogether provide 176 shelter pods.
In 2021, the City of Kamloops estimated that 206 people live with homelessness in the municipality.
The organization’s decision comes at a time when temperatures in Kamloops are forecast to drop to a low of 0 C next Monday.
B.C. Housing told CBC News it is looking for another operator to run the shelters at the Yacht Club and Stuart Wood gymnasium.
Without one, the two shelters will not be able to open on Nov. 1, according to the city’s housing and community development manager, Carmin Mazzotta.
He says the city is also asking another Kamloops-based organization whether they could take over.
“What we at the City of Kamloops are doing is working as quickly as we can and as urgently as we can to assess if there are other potential operators that can step into that,” he said.