News of a one-year extension to the lease for the emergency homeless shelter that popped up last winter on Leon Avenue in downtown Kelowna doesn’t surprise the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce—but it does not please it either.
In a news release issued Thursday, the chamber said there were hints over the last few weeks that this was going to happen.
“We understand the need for such a facility to help those that are marginalized in our society but we feel a bit misled about this location,” said Tom Dyas, past president of the Commerce.
“First we were told that this was not an ideal site but not to worry as it was only going to be temporary and now it seems the plan is to operate year-round.”
In the release, the chamber blames the Cornerstone shelter—housed in the former A & B Sound Store building and originally described as a temporary facility—for bringing more street crime to the area including increased break-ins and property damage, and an increase in fear among people who work in the area.
Dyas said the chamber and Downtown Kelowna Association, which represents business in the downtown core, will continue to encourage the city and BC Housing to increase security and expand regular clean-up efforts while aggressively looking at other locations for the shelter.
The chamber and DKA have been part of several meetings involving stakeholders from the downtown business community, the city, BC Housing, the RCMP, shelter operator the John Howard Society and other parties to review options to relocate the facility.
“Unfortunately, given such a limited time-frame every option suggested by the business community has not met the parameters defined by BC Housing,” said the release.
The chamber and the DKA have also been active in trying to get both BC Housing and the city to address a number of the safety concerns businesses and employees in the area have raised since the shelter opened late last year.
With the news the shelter is now going to operate year-round, both organizations say they plan to be stepping up their efforts to get guarantees from the city and BC Housing they will take “appropriate” action to ensure a safe environment for those using the facility and the many employees, customers and operators of nearby businesses.
“Our members fully understand the need for the city and BC Housing to provide an emergency shelter while other more suitable housing is in the works,” said Dan Allen, president of Downtown Kelowna.
“We support those efforts and the work of the service providers but we continue to believe that the current location of Cornerstone should not be viewed as a long-term solution.”
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