Letter: Chamber of Commerce is responding to homelessness

The Chamber Board of Directors have spent many hours examining the issue in Kelowna

Dear Ms Rao:

I am writing to clarify a point that was reported locally in the Capital News, quoting you regarding the Cornerstone shelter in downtown Kelowna Aug. 1.

In that article you are quoted as stating “The local business community volunteered to help in the search for a new shelter, but they were also unable to bring forward options.” Perhaps you have been misquoted or we have misinterpreted your statement, but if you are trying to suggest that the business community did not try to contribute in a positive way, then we take exception with that suggestion.

In March of this year the Chamber, Downtown Kelowna (DKA) and other business representatives were informed in a hastily called meeting by the city and BC Housing that what was first announced as only a “temporary seasonal emergency shelter” would become a full time, no barrier shelter with BC Housing about to sign a one-year lease extension. BC Housing officials said they would give the business community some time to come up with options before extending the lease.

READ MORE: Kelowna chamber feels ‘misled’ about downtown homeless shelter

Following that meeting and operating in good faith, the local business community rallied local real estate professionals and despite being given only two weeks managed to come up with more than 14 potential alternate sites. A full list was provided to the City/BC Housing. Unfortunately, despite this significant amount of work and some optimism that the effort would be recognized in a positive fashion, all suggestions were rejected almost immediately with no formal response as to why any/all didn’t meet the needs.

The Chamber and Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) are part of a working group of businesses which, up until earlier this year, had been meeting with the RCMP, the City of Kelowna, and periodically, BC Housing and Interior Health to address the increase in nuisance and criminal behaviour impacting downtown business owners. We remain committed to participating in such meetings if the other parties are willing and see value in that type of collaborative approach to problem solving.

The Chamber Board of Directors (all volunteers) and the Downtown Kelowna Association board (also all volunteers) have spent many hours examining the issue, talking to members, and seeking effective solutions.

Carmen Sparg

President, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce

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