Having faced many nights of subzero nights this fall and winter, homeless people in Salmon Arm, B.C., will now have access to provincially funded winter shelter beds until April.
B.C.'s Ministry of Housing announced Tuesday that the non-profit Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap Revelstoke (CMHA-SR) will operate a 20-person temporary shelter in the Shuswap community's Downtown Activity Centre daily from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. until April 30.
In the past, CMHA-SR ran several temporary shelters in Salmon Arm, such as the Lighthouse Inn from the Cold, but it all of them closed last May due to "staffing challenges" and lack of adequate locations to house a shelter, according to B.C. Housing.
That meant up to 60 people, the City of Salmon Arm estimated, were left outdoors struggling with severe winter temperatures as low as ‒25 C last month.
The province says people staying at the shelter at the Downtown Activity Centre, located at 451 Shuswap St., will receive warm meals, will be able to access hygiene facilities, and can get referrals to health services.
CMHA-SR executive director Dawn Dunlop says she is glad her organization has finally secured a location for winter shelter spaces, and worked very hard during the Christmas period to hire staff needed to run the shelter.
But she admits Salmon Arm needs a permanent shelter.
"[The winter shelter] is a start — this is not the silver bullet that's going to solve everything," Dunlop told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.
B.C. Housing says it will continue looking for an appropriate permanent shelter location in Salmon Arm.