Reverend Sunny Kim at the Sicamous United Church said people experiencing homelessness sleeping on the church property is nothing new, but a recent change in habits which has seen people camping out in a covered storage area and plugging in space heaters has led her to seek a solution.
Kim and the rest of the United Church board are seeking help in hopes of finding a safer way for the people who have been sleeping there to get out of the cold.
A letter from the United Church board to the District of Sicamous expresses a desire to find a solution to house those sleeping outdoors as winter conditions become more severe. Along with the safety of those who have been sleeping on the donated sofas in the outdoor storage area used by the church’s thrift store, Kim and the church board are concerned about disturbance to neighbours and damage to church property.
“We believe that solutions to provide safe emergency housing for our homeless should be provided by the town of Sicamous together with other levels of government as has been reported lately from other cities.”
Kim mentioned other communities applying for government grants to fund emergency shelters for the winter.
People have slept on the church’s property in the past. Kim said churchgoers occasionally arrive on Sunday mornings to find sleeping gear stashed on the property or those who spent the night packing up to leave. She did not mention any conflicts arising in the past, but the fire danger and the disturbance of those who live near the church prompted a search for a permanent solution.
The letter was discussed by Sicamous council at its Dec. 9 meeting. The district’s response to the issue is being led by Coun. Bob Evans, a pastor at Shuswap Community Church who is accustomed to assisting the homeless.
Evans said he believes the people who have been camping out at the United Church thrift store are the same ones that his church offered assistance to about a month ago. He said they were offered assistance getting into an addiction treatment centre, but they would not go. Evans said in the past his church has provided assistance in the form of groceries and rides to the cold weather shelter in Salmon Arm. Short motel stays have been purchased for people but Evans said these are not a permanent solution.
As a representative for Sicamous council, Evans said he is eager to work with Kim to find a solution.