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4 to 8 people use new emergency shelter in Salmon Arm for first few nights, opinions mixed

City to dismantle tent encampment this week across from Salvation Army building
People who were living in tents in Salmon Arm or staying at night in an insulated, heated sea can on the side of 3rd Street SW now have the option of staying overnight in a temporary winter shelter in the Downtown Activity Centre gym, in background. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

People are beginning to use the new emergency shelter in Salmon Arm.

After four nights of operation, the Downtown Activity Centre gym had seen numbers vary each night.

Dawn Dunlop, executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap-Revelstoke, said on Monday, Jan. 23, there were four people on the lowest night and eight on the highest.

“It’s going reasonably well. We’ve got staff in place and security in place,” she said.

Because the time for entering the shelter for the night is between 8 and 10 p.m., some people have come in but then left before the doors were shut. She said there is an agreement people must sign and some conditions.

The new temporary winter shelter features 20 cots set up in the DAC gym. The shelter closes at 6 a.m. to prevent cross-over with children coming to the daycare also housed in the DAC.

There is no access between the shelter and the rest of the building’s interior. People are permitted to go out to smoke but can’t leave and come back. Staff and security staff are overseeing the site.

People receive a hot meal when they arrive and a bagged breakfast when they leave.

Prior to the shelter opening, varying views on it were heard from people living rough.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, Jan. 21, the night the shelter opened, about half a dozen people were willing to share their opinions anonymously. The opinions ranged from enthusiasm to frustration.

One person said they would be going to the shelter if they could find a place to put their stuff. They expected other people would be using it as well.

Another person was glad to hear it was opening and said they would go there as it would probably be better than their tent.

One man was emphatic that he would probably never go to a shelter.

Another person said the hours in the new shelter are problematic.

“They want us out at 6 a.m. as they have children there, which means they have to wake us up at 5. These guys ain’t morning people… We had till 8 in the morning (at the sea can). That allowed us time.

“At first it was going to be 24 hours a day, all day, sit and be warm.”

A couple of people said they were disappointed the shelter was opening after the cold snap and they’d heard rumours the lease was very expensive.

Read more: Long-awaited announcement by BC Housing on emergency shelter for Salmon Arm

Read more: New temporary shelter in Salmon Arm to address residents’ concerns

One person expressed gratitude for the resident who brought in an insulated sea can and parked it near the tent encampment on 3rd Street SW during the cold snap.

“In there, it doesn’t matter what time of night, even if there’s no bunk you can sit in a chair and sleep. That is a good thing somebody was doing for the community out of their own pocket… All the other homeless people I’ve talked to, that is a good thing. What somebody did out of the kindness of their hearts and out of their own pocket.

They said some people need to collect cans during the night to earn money, so they need the freedom to come and go.

The sea can was removed by its owner on Jan. 20 after the shelter opened.

“Not only that, as soon as they open that (the shelter), they’ll go bulldoze that camp. People who can’t stay in that shelter for whatever reasons, now they’ll have to freeze and find another place to set up camp. And then they’ll just bulldoze again. This is ridiculous.”

Read more: As temperatures plummet, showers at warming centre in Salmon Arm appreciated

During a presentation to city council on Monday, Jan. 23 by the city’s manager of permits and licensing, Maurice Roy, he said bylaw enforcement staff are encouraging all campers to go to the shelter or move along.

He said a cleanup was scheduled for later in the week, Tuesday or Wednesday, so campers were going to be told to move along from their tent encampment across from the Salvation Army building.

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren asked if, with the shelter open and the camp being moved, there’s any provision for people to leave their belongings.

Mayor Alan Harrison said that would be a question for the chief administrative officer.

CAO Erin Jackson said there is room at the shelter for a backpack and a small amount of belongings, but storage is not being offered for tents and sleeping bags. She said more storage would be available in the new permanent shelter, once a site is determined.

Lindgren said she anticipates that will be a problem for people who don’t want to abandon their belongings.

The Café at Lighthouse, in the former home of the Salvation Army emergency shelter on 3rd Street SW, is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing a place where people can get warm, have something to eat, take a shower and do laundry.

Read more: ‘It’s so wrong’: Inaction as temperature drops spurs Salmon Arm resident to set up sea can shelter

Read more: ‘Winters were brutal:’ Former drug user urges compassion for people living rough in Salmon Arm
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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