June 26, 2021 – 10:17 AM
Agencies throughout the Thompson and Okanagan regions are finding innovative ways to help the homeless safely through the scorching heat descending on the region.
The most basic need is to make sure they keep hydrated.
Organizations are handing out bottled water to those who are living outside but there are also a number of taps available for refilling those bottles.
Many agencies, such as the Cammy LaFleur Clinic in Vernon and the Cornerstone emergency shelter in Kelowna, are asking for donations of bottled water to help them provide that service.
But, with temperatures expected to possibly hit as high as 45C next week, finding a place to cool off is going to be a challenge.
“Our biggest, exciting news is the (Vernon) Library, which is normally closed on Sundays in summer, is going to be open,” Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council for North Okanagan told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s a nice air conditioned space with books and WiFi – just a place to cool off, especially if you don’t have air conditioning.”
Kal Tire Place in Vernon will also open Sunday as a cooling centre and stay open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the heat wave.
Kelowna’s Gospel Mission has three vans that are going to be out touring the streets of Kelowna.
“Our staff and volunteers will search, find and serve our most vulnerable community members with a bottle of cold water, a hat, sunscreen as well as a vehicle to cool down in,” says a Gospel Mission news release.
Homeless people in Kelowna can cool down at the Metro church hygiene centre in downtown Kelowna but others are on the way.
“There will be a number of cooling stations, both indoor and outdoor, available across the next week,” Stephanie Ball, executive director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society, said in a text.
The City of Kelowna has suggested, in a news release, that people can cool off in shady areas of city parks and in Okanagan Lake. St. Aiden’s Anglican Church, in the Rutland neighbourhood, will be open in the afternoons to offer indoor shelter from the heat.
Interior Health and other agencies are increasing their supplies of water, Gatorade, food, fruit and other essentials for the 30 to 50 people sleeping outside, she added.
There’s no cooling station in West Kelowna although staff from Turning Points Collaborative will be visiting the half dozen or so people who are living rough in that city, providing water, sunscreen and hats.
Turning Points in Vernon is looking for donations of misters to help cool folks down.
There are an estimated 30 to 50 people living outside there who can access showers at homeless shelters only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sharkey said.
Penticton doesn’t have an official cooling station but people can drop by the Victory Church hygiene centre to pick up water and have a cool shower, Tony Laing, CEO of the Penticton and District Society for Community Living said.
They will also have staff out distributing water and hats.
“There’s still planning taking place,” Laing said. “There could be more things happening.”
Kamloops has a designated cooling centre in the Memorial Arena shelter.
Here’s some tips from Interior Health on how everyone can fight the heat:
Drink water regularly, before you start to feel thirsty
Seek shade or cool indoor locations
Avoid direct mid-day sun
Wear loose protective clothing and a hat, sunscreen and UV-protective eyewear
Plan outdoor activities before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. and take it slow with plenty of rest breaks
Never leave people or pets alone in a parked car.
Cover windows during the day and open them in the evening if you can get a breeze through your home
If you don’t have air conditioning, seek shelter in the coolest room of your home and use a fan
Regularly check on relatives, friends and neighbours to see how they’re doing
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