Carli Berry/Capital News George Pierce enjoys Easter dinner at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission Saturday. Once homeless on Vancouver’s streets, he now volunteers at the Mission and gives people on the streets information about the resources available in Kelowna.

Spreading resources outside of downtown a good idea, says former homeless

George Pierce said those struggling with addiction try to avoid the area to break the cycle

A Kelowna resident, who used to live on the streets, says resources to help the homeless near Rutland is a good idea.

George Pierce has been living in Kelowna since 1977 and volunteers with Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. He enjoyed a meal at the Gospel Mission Saturday as part of the annual Easter dinner.

The Central Okanagan Community Food Bank is set to open its new location on Enterprise Way. A homeless shelter was also proposed for Commerce Avenue but has been met with criticism from surrounding businesses.

Pierce thinks having resources near Rutland is a good idea because it helps people stay away from the temptation of drugs and alcohol, which he said is more easily accessible downtown.

“A lot of people want to stay away from the downtown core… everything’s down here and they want to stay away from here. Some go to Winfield, some go to Westbank.”

The Gospel Mission will not be moving from its downtown location on Leon Avenue anytime soon and historically, homeless shelters and services have been located downtown, said executive director Randy Benson.

Mayor Colin Basran said the goal of the city is to have services everywhere in Kelowna.

“There isn’t any one area that they are highly concentrated and there’s access to resources to everybody in a relatively short distance,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think it’s important to remember that we’re trying to create more services.”

Housing affordability and availability are other ongoing problems that inhibit people from finding permanent places to stay.

People who do have homes are spending a large portion of their income on rent, said Pierce.

“A lot of them are having trouble because of the price… the price is so high and they don’t know who they can trust.”

Pierce currently lives in a trailer with his girlfriend.

In the Central Okanagan, an average of 54 per cent of renters are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, according to census data. Kelowna also has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country.

Benson said the non-profit is meant to be a temporary place to stay as residents transition to housing, but housing is also unaffordable.

At the Gospel Mission, between 700 to 900 people were served Easter dinner. Around 50 volunteers prepared 50 turkeys, 18 hams 500 pounds of potatoes, six cases of frozen veggies to serve those in need throughout the day.

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