Temporary winter shelters have closed, which means some residents experiencing homelessness in Kelowna are back outdoors.
People are back to setting up camp at the city’s designated outdoor shelter on Recreation Avenue. Darren Caul, the City of Kelowna’s safety director said the site was always open but with the cold snap, people naturally opted for indoor shelters.
He said as long as there are not enough shelter spaces, the city will keep the site open for those experiencing homelessness.
“As long as there are inadequate shelters, the city has a legal obligation to designate public space for people to shelter outdoors and we continue to meet that legal obligation with the designation of Recreation Avenue,” Caul said.
“Having people shelter outdoors is not a solution to homelessness. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the downstream effects of mental health, addictions and inadequate shelter space in our community.”
He added residents have also been affected by capacity reductions at Cornerstone and Kelowna’s Gospel Mission as they work on social distancing and ensuring their guests are not exposed to COVID-19.
“Between that and the fact that temperatures have improved, we have more people who are unfortunately sheltering outdoors in our community.”
Caul said, just as before, there is a combination of private security, bylaw and RCMP officers around the area.
But on the brighter side, supportive housing within the community is helping to alleviate the issue.
“A significant opening occurred last week with the opening of Samuel Place… which is now home to 53 people as of this week. Those people were residents of the Fuller Place bridge housing and some were from (temporary shelter) Welcome Inn and other shelters in town,” Caul said.
“Next in line is the opening of Steven Village, which B.C. Housing is opening this summer and it could be home to 50 other people.”