The results of an anonymous survey have prompted a response from Kelowna mayor Tom Dyas.
In late February, a survey was put out to the public about safety around a safe injection site in Downtown Kelowna, as one business owner was concerned about how it was affecting local businesses. The purpose of the survey was to let local businesses, employees, customers, and more people in the area voice their opinion on the matter as people felt unsafe.
The safe injection site was opened at the corner of Pandosy Street and Leon Avenue two years ago.
“We are concerned downtown business owners reaching out for your help to illustrate the business impacts Interior Health’s Overdose Prevention Site and Outreach Urban Health Centre have had on our neighborhood (1649 Pandosy St., Kelowna, generally referred to as the ‘safe injection site’),” the survey said. “Many of us have filed incident reports or issued complaints to the City, RCMP and/or Interior Health but little has changed. We feel that building a collective voice will help to escalate the need for change.”
At the bottom of the survey, it stated the results would be sent to the Mayor’s Office, City Council, the Downtown Business Association, Kelowna RCMP, Interior Health, the Office of the BC Minister of Health, and Welbec Properties (owner of 1649 Pandosy St.).
On Friday morning, mayor Dyas responded to the public with his thoughts on the result of the survey and shared this frustration.
“I had the opportunity to meet with downtown business owners who expressed concern and frustration in relation to downtown disorder, and I share many of their concerns,” said Dyas. “The survey results they shared reflect the RCMP’s data that showed a 12.6 per cent increase in calls for service in the downtown from 2021 to 2022. What we see playing out on our streets across Kelowna including downtown is not acceptable.”
Dyas says in the statement that community safety was one of the main concerns he heard while running for mayor in the fall and himself and city council are working on making downtown safer. They have already approved a one per cent Community Safety Levy to help safety needs, which includes funding for an additional six RCMP officers, four Bylaw Services officers, two Police Services support staff and one Community Safety Services employee.
“I heard about staff who feel unsafe at times, the high cost of vandalism and theft, and stores that now keep their doors locked at all times,” said Dyas in the statement. “I heard that more needs to be done for those struggling with the effects of untreated and complex health, mental health and substance use issues, and that more needs to be done to address the resulting social disorder we see on our streets. Most importantly, I heard that businesses want to work with us to see change. We all want a thriving, safe, downtown core.”
Dyas also said that since early February, City Bylaw Services, the RCMP and Interior Health have been meeting regularly and responding to the large number of people who were sheltering around the Interior Health Outreach Urban Health clinic and these meetings will continue.
“As a Council, we have heard loud and clear the ongoing concerns of our community and we will do everything in our power to address these issues,” said Dyas. “I am fully committed to working with the business community, citizens, Interior Health, the RCMP, partners in the social-serving sector and senior levels of government to address community safety, housing and homelessness in Kelowna.”