What happens when Kamloops experiences extreme cold weather and the number of people seeking shelter surpasses the number of shelter beds? The recent extreme weather event in Kamloops highlighted the incredible work and collaboration of our social agencies and Community Services Officers to support people experiencing homelessness.
Kamloops’ Shelter System
At regular capacity levels, Kamloops’ shelter system has a deficit of approximately 50 beds to shelter the approximately 206 individuals identified as experiencing homelessness in the 2021 Point-in-Time Count. However, thanks to the dedication of shelter and housing providers and with support from BC Housing, the shelter system was able to expand to respond during the recent extreme cold weather. This additional capacity can be achieved by placing mats or cots in existing shelter or social housing sites or by using motel units to provide shelter beds with the intent that no one seeking shelter is turned away during these extreme events. At the peak of the response, more than 200 people experiencing homelessness accessed shelter.
All shelter sites operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, and provide daily meals, laundry and shower facilities, support services, and connections to community resources and longer-term housing options. The shelters, which act as warming or cooling centres during the day, are staffed with qualified individuals who are trained to support people with complex needs.
The Role of Community Service Officers
Since the role was redeveloped in early 2021, Community Service Officers (CSOs) have received increased training and shifted their focus from enforcement to education with an emphasis on developing relationships, resolving conflict, and working together as a community, particularly when working with people experiencing homelessness.
CSOs are unable to offer services like transportation or harm reduction. However, they do play a key role in connecting individuals with community resources and assistance. CSOs regularly patrol all areas of the city, including riverbanks, and keep an eye out for individuals who may need support. They are in tune with the environment and have developed respectful relationships to allow for conversation and understanding in resolving any conflict or issues coming forward from residents and business owners.
Expression of Gratitude
The City of Kamloops would like to extend its gratitude to our partner agencies for consistently rising to the challenge to support the most vulnerable people in our community. This commitment to the community is felt year-round. The service, support, and tireless effort provided by employees at these agencies—the Canadian Mental Health Association, ASK Wellness, The Mustard Seed Kamloops, the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society, Interior Community Services, Out of the Cold, Interior Health, BC Housing, and countless other agencies—does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
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