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Emergency shelter not needed in Osoyoos, officials say

Emergency shelter not needed in Osoyoos, officials say

Neha Chollangi

Special to the Times-Chronicle

Unlike the Town of Oliver, Osoyoos doesn’t appear to have a problem with homelessness, according to Mayor Sue McKortoff.

Oliver Town Council recently announced that they will discuss the need for an emergency shelter for the winter, as there are approximately 50 people experiencing homelessness in town. In Osoyoos, however, it seems that there isn’t a similar problem.

“It’s something that we keep an eye on all the time, but I can’t say that I’ve ever had anybody say to me ‘yikes there are 12 people living on the street.’ That doesn’t seem to happen here and I’ve got my fingers crossed,” said McKortoff.

Marieze Tarr, executive director at Desert Sun Counselling, agrees with McKortoff that in comparison to Oliver’s current issue with homelessness, Osoyoos definitely does not have a problem on the same scale. McKortoff said the town would look at the issue if they were required to do so.

Tarr said that there is, however, a need for affordable housing rather than an emergency shelter in Osoyoos.

Many people struggling with housing attended a community meeting on poverty held by Desert Sun Counselling and Okanagan Integrated Community Services two years ago.

Tarr said that most of these people are fine for housing in the summer but often struggle in the winter. A lot of them were living in substandard housing where it’s either very expensive to heat the house or there’s no proper heating at all.

“So, when it gets really cold, they struggle because they have to choose between heating the place that they live in or actually buying food,” said Tarr.

Desert Sun Counselling has an affordable housing unit at Sandalwood Court in Oliver that can accommodate 18 people, but it often has a waitlist. Currently the waitlist has 20 people that are in search of affordable housing. Tarr said that they house a lot of seniors who struggle with housing in Osoyoos, especially in the colder months when they have nowhere to go.

“What we need is this continuum of housing… that would include supportive housing and independent affordable housing,”

Tarr also said that in many cases, the issue of affordable housing that people face can put them at risk for homelessness.

(Neha Chollangi is a freelance reporter for the Times-Chronicle)

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