TODAY, ANOTHER cold winter shelter has opened. This newest shelter will be located in the Alliance Church at the north end of the Overlander Bridge.
With all the other BC Housing funded cold weather shelters located on the South Shore of Kamloops, it will be a welcome addition for people living on the streets on the North Shore.
The Mustard Seed will be operating the shelter, which will be open from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. each day. It will give respite for people when temperatures are below -10 Celsius.
Mustard Seed has a lot of experience delivering services to people in need. But in opening this shelter, they’ve shown they have the ability to engage with the neighborhood as well.
Before the shelter went ahead, they held open houses with neighbors. They spoke to the surrounding businesses. They put out online surveys. They listened to people’s concerns and answered questions.
One of their plans which will make a huge difference is for their workers to be walking the surrounding few blocks.
There is no one solution to homelessness and street issues. But having a place for people to go off the streets is one step in the right direction. Without shelter, people look for all sorts of ways to stay warm.
People light fire to stay warm, which can lead to buildings or vegetation igniting as well. Those in tents can use propane heaters, which can cause death from carbon monoxide poisoning. Shelters keep unhoused people safe.
However, neighborhoods are often reluctant to have shelters in their neighborhood. Mustard Seed realized this and addressed concerns head on.
The Mustard Seed made the decision for active community interface management. They have taken responsibility for not just serving their clients within the walls of the Alliance Church temporary cold weather shelter, but to engage with the surrounding neighborhood.
They have made the choice to ensure the operation of the shelter enhances the lives of people on the street while at the same time does not impact the neighborhood.
Groups who provide shelter services in Kamloops are consistently engaging in community.
Moira House, near the Halston Bridge, and Genesis (the former Fortune Motel), both operated by Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) are two other housing operations that have demonstrated their ability to have positive relationships with their neighborhoods.
This week, one business leader from the North Shore told me that neither Moira nor Genesis has had any issues. They credited CMHA to be actively engaged with their neighbors. The operator (CMHA) has ensured their clients have housing while at the same time the neighborhood is not negatively impacted.
Mustard Seed, CMHA, and other groups such as Out of the Cold, ASK Wellness and others take on the burden of serving those most vulnerable in our community. They do it night after night, while integrating with their neighborhoods. Their work helps everyone in our community stay safer, not just the unhoused. They deliver services that meet our shared values of assisting those in need.
Thank you to all the service providers who provide shelter and other services to those who are unhoused in our community. Especially in these dark days of winter, your work is immensely valuable. Having organizations willing to take on this work makes our community stronger for everyone.
Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.