West Kelowna city council listened to over 30 residents with concerns and ideas on the status of homeless people in the downtown core. (Mackenzie Britton - Capital News)

Concerns high, answers in short supply at West Kelowna town hall

West Kelowna residents pitched concerns regarding homeless in downtown core

More than 30 people spoke their piece at the West Kelowna town hall meeting Thursday night.

The meeting drew almost 300 people and was organized by the City of West Kelowna to give residents a chance to voice concerns and suggest possible solutions on the growing conflicts in downtown that have been caused by homeless people.

Speakers’ solutions ranged from more affordable housing, shipping homeless off to a segregated area, less shelters, tough love, better mental health aid, compassion and increased law enforcement.

One of the largest concerns was the location of the West Kelowna Shelter Society that is now housed at the Westbank United Church on Brown Road in downtown.

Speakers argued that drug-use facilities only bring more homeless people and enables drug users.

“If there is real interest in harm reduction, the people (council) should be concentrating on us, the taxpayers and business people,” one speaker said.

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More sympathetic ideas were also voiced to council.

Rev. Hogman from the Westbank United Church spoke to remind people to be committed to everyone in the West Kelowna community and that the city is “in it together.”

Other voices reached out in support of the positive initiatives to help the homeless.

“It takes a whole village to raise a child,” speaker Doug Brown said.

“They are in great need. (We) need to play a part in helping.”

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West Kelowna council was joined at the meeting by representatives of city partners: Westbank First Nations, BC Housing, RCMP, Interior Health and the West Kelowna Shelter Society.

Council said they were going to listen and interpret all the put-forth concerns and adapt new solutions and city plans with their partners to improve the conditions with homeless people in downtown.

“I’m really proud of our community for the many people that came here tonight,” Mayor Gord Milsom said.

“Emotions ranged from deep compassion to fear, it’s an emotional topic and I found it emotional. But that’s what we wanted to do, we wanted to listen and now we’re going to think about what was said.”

No date has been set for when council plans to present the reactive action plan.

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