The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce wants to find a new location for the Inn from the Cold homeless shelter.
With 30 days remaining on the lease for the shelter’s Sutherland Avenue site, securing available space from a Kelowna landlord has become imperative.
“If we don’t find a new location for the shelter, come the cold winter months in December and January a lot of people are going to be in a bad position,” said Tom Dyas, the past president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.
Dyas was referring to the needs of the shelter’s current 45 clients.
For Jan Schulz, executive director of Inn for the Cold, she understands the hesitancy some landlords might feel about renting space to a homeless shelter, but is hopeful the “good neighbour protocols” it has developed can overcome any concerns.
“Some people accuse me of being Pollyanna, but I do feel our knight in shining armour will come forward to help us out,” said Schulz.
Both Dyas and Schulz spoke at a press conference on Thursday to generate media attention to the Inn from the Cold’s relocation plight.
Dyas said the chamber called on local commercial real estate agents to survey potential available space currently available.
What started out as 20 potential sites has since dwindled down to four—two being in industrial parks and the others located in east Kelowna and Glenmore.
“The status of our conversations with those landlords is similar to conversations we’ve had with the others…not being certain how accommodating a homeless shelter will affect their neighbourhood and how their neighbours would look upon it,” Dyas said.
“We are trying to make the case that it provides rental revenues and doesn’t have to be a long-term situation. We can start at six months and see how it goes from there.”
The Inn from the Cold’s location needs is a 2,500 square-foot or larger warehouse-type space with one large open room, preferably in an industrial part of the city, away from the downtown core. Minimal kitchen facilities are needed and the Inn is prepared to augment onsite washroom facilities as required.
Its good neighbour protocols include security patrols, set hours for client intake, side or rear entrance to keep street frontage clear, daily cleaning and scheduled smoke breaks in designated areas with access to garbage disposal.
Schulz also addressed some misconceptions about the people they serve, citing one example of how many view the homeless as “drug addicts, lazy and transients.”
“There is no question that description would apply to some, but not the majority. We recently had a new board member join us and she came out to volunteer at the shelter. She was surprised to find three clients from the bank where she worked were living in the shelter,” said Schulz.
“Not everyone is out panhandling or bottle picking. We have people who are working full-time as janitors and construction workers. Sometimes the line between being homeless or not can be very, very fine.”
Both Dyas and Schulz indicated Inn from the Cold could easily move to different sites with minimal hardship, but Dyas stressed the need for the community to realize the homeless shelter issue needs to be absorbed in many neighbourhoods on smaller accommodation levels and not just the downtown core.
He said the downtown core is evidence of what happens with centralizing homeless shelter resources, saying clients become susceptible to drug abuse and crime, and it becomes a setback for many homeless people rather than an opportunity to move forward.
“This issue was brought forward to us about a year and a half ago by our membership and asked (the executive) to do something about it,” he explained.
“So we have since gone through trying to communicate our concerns with all parties involved. The conversation was going, then it stopped, and now we are re-engaged again.”
Anyone who may know of possible locations options for Inn from the Cold is urged to contact Jan Schulz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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