A place to stay warm where you won’t freeze to death. A washroom, showers and maybe a place to cook.
That’s the list of what two people who have been living in tents in Salmon Arm said they need for winter.
The two men were staying in two of several tents that had been set up in the soccer fields in Salmon Arm between School District 83’s District Education Support Centre and the former Salvation Army’s homeless shelter. They were taking down their tents at the end of September after being asked to vacate by a bylaw officer, they said.
They said they’re both from the Shuswap. They agreed to speak to the Observer while they were packing up their gear but did not wish to have their names published.
They also agreed they’re worried about winter. They say they know of two people who were without homes in Salmon Arm who were found in the morning frozen to death. One death was two winters ago, one last winter, they said.
One man suggested the city provide land.
“They’ve got lots of property, they could have something open with a bathroom. Like you know, porta-potties or a bathroom, something to cook in, then we could have our tents – something like that. At least then we’ve got a shower, and we could get everybody to work together and clean up and keep it safe.”
He said maybe used fifth wheels or travel trailers would work.
“They’ve got a shower, that would even be perfect. Ones that are used and in good shape. They would be better than tents – you’ve got to heat them up, then put blankets overtop.”
To heat his tent, he said he sometimes cuts off the top of a beer can and burns hand sanitizer in it.
As the days get colder, word of a shelter in Salmon Arm hasn’t been forthcoming.
BC Housing sent a recent email response regarding the current situation.
“BC Housing is still working with the City of Salmon Arm and stakeholders to secure a location for a new shelter to service the community. Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to stay, which is why we are searching for a site that can be operational year-round to avoid further shelter relocations.”
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, who chairs the city’s social issues committee and has been a member of its housing task force, expressed a similar message.
“I haven’t any more to report on the shelter and when there is news, it will come from BC Housing as they are the funders. But efforts continue to secure a location.”
In late summer a health-care worker wrote to the city, saying that with the closure of the local shelter, not only has there has been a noticeable increase in the homeless population living in the downtown core, but there has also been an increase in those coming to the hospital’s emergency room, trying to gain access to any available resources.
The writer said, where she lives, there are constant altercations outside her home, and seniors with and without disabilities who live in the same building have been threatened and cornered by people who have a more aggressive nature.
“When it comes to a discussion of what to do next, there are many differing opinions which often can cause a divide. This population has a diverse array of mental, physical and emotional issues that housing alone cannot fix – but it could help,” she wrote.
She concluded by saying she is not contacting the city to demand answers, but to offer her help and assistance in creating a solution.
When the letter was brought up in council, Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said she knows staff have been in touch with the letter writer and have been able to connect her with housing providers in the community so she can pursue her interest in being part of the solution.
“I think those types of decisions are very important in terms of getting engaged with what can be a really difficult situation. Everyone can do their part and I am certainly grateful that she’s trying to do hers.”
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