Randy Benson

Randy Benson is executive director of Kelowna's Gospel Mission.

Persistently cold weather has Kelowna shelters running out of space as demand for a warm place to sleep continues to be high.

“We’ve been pretty much full since we opened in November,” said Jan Schulz, executive director of Inn From the Cold. “It’s very difficult knowing that we are turning people away who will be outside for the night, especially with it being so cold.”

Inn From the Cold has beds for 35 people, but the shelter has been accommodating a few extra people most nights with mats, said Schulz.

Last year, the shelter increased its capacity to 40, but it was too many people for volunteers to manage, she said.

If there is no more room at Inn From the Cold, people may be referred to the Gospel Mission.

“We call ahead to make sure there is room,” said Schulz. “We don’t have the capacity to be able to take them over there in a vehicle, so we don’t know categorically that they are going to the other shelter.”

More young people seem to be staying at Inn From the Cold than in previous years, said Schulz.

“We do tend to have a younger population than we’ve had in the past,” she said. “The average age seems to be going down.”

Inn from the Cold is scheduled to remain open until April 1, depending on funding.

Space also has been tight at the Gospel Mission, which has been operating its overnight shelter at 100 per cent capacity or more this season.

The Gospel Mission has 100 beds available, but it has been accepting between 100 and 114 people every night for the last few weeks, said Randy Benson, executive director.

However, the Gospel Mission has not had to turn anyone away yet, because there is still room for more mats, he said.

While the temperatures remain below zero, the Gospel Mission is open 24 hours a day, and serves between 500 and 600 meals a day.

“People can come in where it’s warm, which makes it very busy for our staff and a lot of extra work,” said Benson. “Typically we’ll get a cold snap, then it will warm up, but this has been a fairly long cold snap for us.”

The Gospel Mission is currently asking for donations of mittens, men’s jeans and men’s pyjamas.

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