Six weeks after an emergency shelter has opened to help people living on the streets of Kamloops, the lead organization involved wants to create another centre just for homeless seniors.
Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Doug Sage told the City’s co-ordinated enforcement task force Monday he’s in negotiations with the society that operates Cariboo Manor in Westsyde.
The 11-bed facility would target homeless seniors, which Sage said is a demographic group expected to increase in number in the coming years. The manor currently houses seniors who need some care, but not around the clock.
The new seniors’ housing project is being worked on in partnership with the Seniors Outreach Society and is by no means a done deal yet, he said.
Bob Hughes from ASK Wellness said his agency was involved in helping clean up some of the homeless camps around town this summer. Some of the sites have been quite ingenious, including one person who was pouring concrete for his home.
“A trend we’ve noticed is the aging homeless and their complex housing needs,” he said, adding to Sage’s comments about the need for a seniors’ emergency homeless shelter.
Six weeks ago, Sage marked the opening of Emerald Centre on Lansdowne Street as it began providing emergency shelter and transitional housing. Its 35 emergency and 11 transitional beds have been full since.
“The need has always been there,” he said of the demand for Emerald Centre’s spaces.
What has surprised him is the shelter has had to add beds for more women, from eight to 12, and still it turns away up to four or five more, at times.
The reason it surprised him is that the building, historically, was a strip joint where drug dealing and other illegal activities took place. It was not friendly to women.
“We figured we’d have trouble getting women to go there,” he said.
“Women are coming in bigger numbers.”
But even as the new building issues are still being resolved at Emerald Centre, Sage has begun to deal with another issue affecting the homeless in Kamloops — housing for seniors living on the streets.
Sage estimated there are probably 3,000 “hidden homeless” people in Kamloops, including those who trade sex for housing or who couch surf some of the time.
Jen Casorso, the City’s community and social development supervisor, said the annual homeless count is slated for Oct. 18 and 19.