Cornerstone announcement leaves Kelowna Chamber of Commerce with questions

The chamber calls on BC Housing to define ‘indefinite’ following provincial funding announcement

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce still has questions following the province’s announcement to spend $2.4 million a year to keep the Cornerstone shelter operating until alternative permanent housing options are found.

This is the fourth time the temporary shelter has had its operational deadline extended over the past two and a half years, the chamber said.

The 80-bed shelter on Leon Avenue was slotted to close on June 30, but with provincial funding, it will remain open “indefinitely” until another location is found, or until people are relocated and housed.

The chamber, however, wants to know just how long “indefinite” is.

READ MORE: Province to spend $2.4M annually to keep Cornerstone open

“The chamber and the business community have long accepted the need for shelters and understand why such facilities are essential, especially given the fact that many would be forced to sleep outside if they didn’t have the shelter,” chamber president Nikki Csek said.

“The concern with Cornerstone is its close proximity to the Gospel Mission, its large number of clients and the fact that open drug use is permitted in the facility.”

The chamber calls BC Housing and its associated community partners to visit affected business and property owners to “reassure them that safety measures are being put in place and their staff and customers have little to be concerned about,” the release said.

READ MORE: Kelowna chamber feels ‘misled’ about downtown homless shelter

The Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) voiced its disappointment regarding the announcement last week. It said although it disagrees with the location of the shelter, “the DKA does fully support the efforts of BC Housing, the City of Kelowna, the Journey Home Society and others to establish short-, medium- and long-term housing solutions for Kelowna’s homeless population.”

The DKA will continue advocating for alternative locations and will continue to engage community partners to address the long-term needs of Kelowna’s homeless population.

Although the downtown area represents only a small portion of the chamber’s membership, “we do understand the frustration with the current situation as many businesses have been hit with vandalism over the last number of months and costs associated with safety measures have led to increased levies and tax hikes,” Csek said.

“We are pleased with a renewed commitment from the city to engage businesses in the downtown on an ongoing basis while Cornerstone is phased out and are also pleased that our efforts to reach out to BC Housing officials have led to a commitment from CEO Shayne Ramsay to come to Kelowna in July to speak,” Csek said.

Caitlin Clow
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
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