Those wishing to spend the night at the Lighthouse Emergency Shelter in Salmon Arm will be heading to its former location on Third Street SW as of Nov. 10.
The building at 441 Third St. SW opened Wednesday night, Nov. 10, because the McGuire Lake residence, which was set up due to COVID-19 and afforded 24/7 shelter to people, will no longer be available.
The hours of the Third Street shelter will be as before: 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 a.m. People will receive food at night and in the morning before heading out.
“We were able to go into that space because of the generosity of the property owner who for a time put plans on hold,” said the Salvation Army’s Lieut. Joel Torrens, referring to the McGuire Lake residence. “We’re so thankful for the opportunity we’ve had there. Unfortunately our time had to come to an end.”
Because COVID-19 protocols are still in place, the Lighthouse shelter will be able to accommodate only eight men and two women – about half of its pre-COVID capacity.
“Fortunately with Cedar Place opening, that gives a lot of people a space to be,” said Torrens.
Cedar Place is the supportive housing at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Third Street SW for people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. It opened its doors Nov. 8 and will be providing long-term housing with its 38 studio suites, which are expected to be occupied within three weeks. People who will live there have undergone a coordinated access process involving a number of community agencies. Due to the varying needs of people who are without homes, it is not a match for everyone.
Torrens said staff were working with people when they were at the McGuire Lake shelter to try to understand their plans. It’s a complex picture with many variables, he said.
“I think it is worth saying that we are limited in what we can do, having to leave McGuire and go back to Lighthouse. The providers in this community want to do more. What’s available to us is less than what we want to do. Conversations are happening,” he said.
He said the whole project of figuring out what to do during COVID last year “was just incredible, the way everyone came together to make it happen.”
Right now, he said, community empathy is important.
“Trying to recognize that the people they might walk past or drive past have a story.”
He said the Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers, and he wanted to acknowledge all the other organizations doing really good work in town to support the vulnerable population.
“I can’t say enough about how fantastic the supports are in this community. This community really cares for people.”
Torrens said it will be clearer in a few weeks what supports are still needed following the transitions.
“Cedar Place doesn’t fix everything but it sure does help a lot,” he emphasized.
Regarding people who could be seen camping on the soccer fields and the former tennis court site below the Downtown Education Centre, the school district said in an email to the Observer that it worked with community partners to try to find alternatives – in particular, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the city’s bylaw officer and the Salmon Arm Fire Department. The people tenting were told they could no longer remain on the school district property.
“Once they had packed up and left, a company, specializing in hazmat removal, was hired to clean up and reclaim the site,” stated the email.
It’s not known if any of the people there were to be housed in Cedar Place.
Mayor Alan Harrison said he had heard from residents regarding the people staying on the site. He said the city’s bylaw officer was contacted by the school district to help outline the process, which includes serving the people tenting with notice to move.
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