Carli Berry/Capital News                                Homelessness is an ongoing issue in Kelowna.

Carli Berry/Capital News Homelessness is an ongoing issue in Kelowna.

FEATURE: Tourist season’s impact on homelessness

Kelowna - Low-income families migrate during the tourist season or face homelessness

Kelowna’s hot summer months are a big reason many people live in the city, but the sunny weather actually makes the homelessness situation worse for many mid to low-income earners.

As spring turns to summer and tourists flock to the Central Okanagan, short-term rental prices go up, forcing low-income families to move on a regular basis, or worse, leaving them without a place to live.

Shelley Cook, the former executive director of the John Howard Society, said low-income residents are put on the streets in the tourist season because there aren’t affordable housing options in Kelowna.

Cook, who also ran in the recent provincial election, is currently working on a PhD and is leading two research projects which focus on homelessness in Kelowna.

She said rentals available until the summer, seasonal rentals and hotels are often rented to people with lower incomes or students until the tourist season arrives.

In terms of affordability, “they’re the only option,” she said.

The rentals are often furnished with cleaning services so it provides a better option for people in transition for a few months, those in the trades program at Okanagan College or low-income families who may not be able to afford higher rents, said Cook.

“For people of lower income there’s no option. There’s nothing out there…I even put people up in hotels short-term and even negotiated a rate for a couple of weeks to keep them off the streets,” she said.

Mission Park Inn rents to students and some lower-income families during the down season. Manager Nicki Hughes said the hotel offers off-season rates for about $30 a day starting after the long-weekend in September and going until May.

Although the hotel doesn’t focus on housing low-income families, it does offer special rates in the down-time and often sees students in the trades program, low-income families, and those who are attending the cancer clinic, she said.

For students and cancer clinic patients it costs about $900 to $950 a month. A typical extended rate is around $1,000 a month.

“Because we’re not on the highway, we’ve always done extended stays through the off season… we offer discounted rates for students. It’s hard for people to find places to lay their heads for five or six weeks because we don’t get as much daily traffic through the off season (so we offer that,)” she said.

She’s also noticed in the past few years, more local individuals taking the hotel’s deal.

“With the vacancy rate being what it is in Kelowna, we’ve probably had more locals in the past couple years staying with us.”

Hughes has also seen the hotel used by lower-income families.

“I can certainly attest to the difficulties for young families, it’s definitely been super difficult. I’ve heard lots of heart-wrenching stories over the front counter in the lobby,” she said.

The hotel becomes fully booked with visitors from May until August so the previous residents have to vacate.

Chris Moffat, case outreach worker for the Kelowna Gospel Mission said historically summer is when homelessness is most prominent, due to many factors.

He said this includes the lack of short-term cheap rentals.

“I had people staying in motels in the cheap months and then now they’re staying at Big White. They kind of migrate back and forth,” said Moffat. “Because right now Big White is super affordable with nice places for $600 a month.”

The issue arises in May, when prices skyrocket for the summer.

“Come May it’s like get out. It’s not even just hotels, it’s rental houses too,” he said.

Moffat believes some people become homelessness because of the rising rates in the summer, but it isn’t the sole factor for increasing homelessness numbers in the summer.

“It makes it a heck of a lot harder for families,” he said.

Just Posted

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Hot and cold water have different pouring sounds

Your morning start for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

(Contributed)
Collision slows rush hour traffic in Kelowna

Expect delays at K.L.O. Road and Richter Street on your commute Tuesday evening

A conceptual render of the proposed building at 955 Manhattan Drive. (Contributed)
Height not wanted on Kelowna’s Manhattan Drive

City staff said proposed five-storey building poses challenges

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

Spiritleaf, Penticton’s first cannabis retailer opened in 2019. (Western News File)
Penticton expands cannabis store hours to match liquor stores

Cannabis stores are now allowed to operate until 11 p.m. in Penticton

Spread out on the staircase of the Kelowna courthouse on June 10, 2021, were several signs with messages calling for justice against Curtis Sagmoen and an end to violence. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News file)
Sagmoen cop assault trial set for 2022

Pre-trial conference set to start process Jan. 26, 2022

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kayla Rogall, a Summerland singer-songwriter, has released three singles. The songs can be found on her website at kaylamariemusic.com and on most music streaming platforms. (Contributed)
Summerland songwriter’s music an expression of emotion

Kayla Rogall has released three singles

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

Most Read