Frigid temperatures and bitter cold wind in early February raised concerns for the city’s homeless and sent shelters into overflow mode.
On one particular day, the thermometer was expected to hit the -22 C mark, beds for those without a roof of their heads in the city are at a premium.
But manager Roger Evans, of the Salvation Army’s Compass House, says they will do whatever it takes to provide shelter for those seeking refuge from the elements.
“It’s brutal out there, nobody will be turned away,” said Evans, who added both facilities (including Winter Shelter at 1706 Main St.) are running at capacity and overflow. “We can still take more. Even if we can just offer them a chair for the night we will bring them in from this cold.
“With the cold that is out there right now, especially tonight (Tuesday) I think is going to be the cold one, it’s going to drive some of these people in so we’ll keep them warm for the night.”
Their winter shelter has a 27-bed capacity.
A 20-bed emergency shelter for men and women, Compass House had to break out some extra cots to accommodate those coming in from the cold.
On Feb. 10, 3 a.m., a blaze at 221 Huth Ave. that fully engulfed a residence at the address resulted in the death of a man and at the time Penticton RCMP considered the fire suspicious.
The deceased was located inside the building by crews from the Penticton Fire Department when they entered after putting out the fire.
|Penticton firefighters were called to a house fire on Huth Avenue Feb. 10 that claimed the life of a man and was deemed suspicious at the time. (Submitted photo)|
There were reports that a man and one of two dogs believed to have been inside at the time were able to escape.
A nearby neighbour who lived across the street and several houses over reported his security camera picked up what is believed to be suspicious activity prior to the blaze.
Darryl Jones provided 36 hours of security footage over to the RCMP who were continuing to investigate the matter.
Jones and his wife Debbie said the footage showed two men were seen walking past the house just before the fire started.
Penticton RCMP Const. James Grandy had asked for anyone with information about the fire to contact police.
A Penticton man who was standing beside Rex Gill who died of gunshot wounds in front of a Kamloops motel, the Kamloops Comfort Inn and Suites, in January recounted the shooting recalled the incident saying the bullets just missed him by inches.
“I was two feet away from him, having a smoke. Then a car pulled up beside the truck we were standing beside, took one shot and hit the tailgate…then they took four more shots at us,” said the man.
“I dove behind the truck and turned just as Rex was hit, so I watched him get shot,” said the man who asked his name not be released for safety and privacy issues.
“It was definitely a case of mistaken identity — he had nothing to do with the drug trade anywhere and let alone in Kamloops.”
The same day another man was also shot and killed in front of another motel, the witness believes that was the same shooter who killed Gill.
The other victim, Cody Marcel Mathieu, 33, was known to police —kill wasn’t — and was linked to the drug trade.
Early in the investigation RCMP associated both deaths with organized crime something upsetting to both Gill’s family and friends.
“It was definitely a case of mistaken identity — he had nothing to do with the drug trade anywhere and let alone in Kamloops,” said the witness.
“It’s bothered me that the cops say the public have no fear of being in danger because we’re just the public. But we had nothing to do with it and one of us is dead because of it.
“The public does have something to fear, because otherwise, we’d be fine.”
Matthew Baran, executive director of Ooknakane Friendship Centre and a personal friend of Gill’s, is also upset with how information was released in regards to the shooting, claiming the police should have taken more care when they “portrayed Gill in the drug trade.”
Baran said he has spoken with Gill’s family since the most recent RCMP release about his homicide, saying they are disappointed in the lack of communication.
It’s not known what, if any, progress has been made by the Special Crimes Unit investigating the deaths who at the time said the matter was being treated as a top priority.