pilot project in Kelowna, BC aims to keep homeless people warm during cold spells | PKBNEWS

The city of Kelowna is taking a page out of Montreal’s book as it tries to find ways to keep homeless people warm during cold spells.

The city of British Columbia is running a new thermal shelter pilot project.

With funding from BC Housing, Kelowna is getting 27 of the shelters, costing between $500 and $700 each.

Shelters come in two sizes to accommodate one or two people.

“It will complement our other tools that we use, including the heated bus, tents, [and] heating supplies,” said Colleen Cornock, Manager of Community Safety Services for the City of Kelowna.

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The city says that by simply using occupants’ body heat, the internal temperature in the shelters can be 15 to 18 degrees warmer.

“They have been used for this specific purpose in Montreal and internationally in the Czech Republic. They are a light foam. They are easy to install, assemble and disassemble. They are meant to be durable for that purpose,” Cornock said.

Kevin Schlemko, who is currently homeless, thinks shelters could help.

He said he slept outside most of the winter, using only cardboard or blankets to try to keep warm.

“I don’t have any feeling in my fingertips anymore at this point. It’s definitely been the worst winter I’ve ever had,” Schlemko said.

“I was outside for almost a week this winter. It was really brutal: a wet blanket in the middle of a fucking blizzard, so anything you can put between you and the weather outside [is] definitely helpful.

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The plan is to deploy the shelters during cold spells at the city’s designated outdoor shelter location at the north end of downtown.

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However, there are some concerns about the location.

“It’s not clean or safe. It’s definitely not safe. It’s far from people,” said Chelsea Denis, who also experiences homelessness.

“But I think [the thermal shelters] would help keep people warm for sure, as long as there are a lot of them because there are a lot of us.

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The city points out that it only has a limited number of shelters and that if it let people use them anywhere, it would be difficult to manage the pilot project.

“We only have 27 units, so it’s really incumbent on us to monitor where they’re being used so that we have the ability to bring them back, clean them, sanitize them and then redistribute them to people,” Cornock said.

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With cooler weather forecasts, the new shelters could be deployed in the coming days.

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