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A new provincially funded temporary homeless shelter will open this week in Kamloops, B.C., receiving some of the residents of another temporary shelter that will soon close.
On Monday, the B.C. government announced that the Merit Place shelter, operated by the Kamloops chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association and located inside a former Greyhound bus depot, will provide 50 beds until March 2023.
“These new shelter spaces will help people get inside and connect with services so they have the supports they need to begin to rebuild their lives,” B.C. Housing Minister David Eby said in a statement.
The shelter will receive one-time start-up funding of $100,000 from B.C. Housing and $1.9 million in annual operating funds.
Kamloops CMHA executive director Alfred Achoba says Merit Place will be able to accommodate 50 of the people transitioning from the 50-bed temporary shelter at the Memorial Arena in downtown — about four kilometres east of the new shelter — which, he says, is over capacity.
“As soon as we get the last clients out of there and clean up and hand it over to the city the way we got it, we’ll be out of there,” Achoba told CBC’s Doug Herbert.
Merit Place is one of three new CMHA-run shelters in Kamloops the province promised last November.
A 25-bed shelter in the former Stuart Wood School opened last December and will run until this March. The 40-bed Moira House shelter is expected to open soon.
Achoba says Merit Place is fenced and uses sleeping pods to increase privacy and support the dignity of shelter guests.
“This is the opportunity for the folks who use shelter to be able to relax, to be able to walk quietly while reflecting on what the next steps would be,” he said. “We have different areas for both male and female clients.”
Achoba says the CMHA is providing a peer program and other support services for people staying at the new shelter.
Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social housing and community development manager, says steps are being taken to ensure the safety of both shelter residents and surrounding neighbours.
“[The] city will be increasing our patrols with our community services officers in the area, helping to provide a safe and secure environment in the surrounding area and take a proactive approach,” he said.