A man sitting outside of his tent on Leon Avenue on Nov. 1, 2019. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)

Tent city in Kelowna a saftey concern as winter approaches

B.C. law states a municipality cannot prohibit all public spaces from use as a temporary shelter

As the City of Kelowna continues to monitor and manage local homelessness and housing needs, it is still struggling to find solutions to keep everyone safe in the downtown core.

“We know we need more shelter space in the city, and we must respect the legal rights of people to shelter outdoors when there is no room in the existing shelters,” said Darren Caul, community safety director.

Planning by the province, the City of Kelowna and the Journey Home Society continues but the city said space for temporary winter shelters has been tough to find.

“Tents are not a solution to homelessness, housing with supports is the solution,” said Sue Wheeler, social development manager. “While we have more than 100 units of housing scheduled to open in the spring, we are continuing to work with the province, our community partners and those with lived experience to try and secure supports and an adequate number of overnight shelter beds to accommodate people currently sleeping outside.”

B.C. law specifies that where there is insufficient housing and shelter space for people experiencing homelessness, a municipality cannot prohibit all public spaces from being used for temporary shelter. In these cases, a municipality must identify public space where it will allow overnight outdoor sheltering, which to date has been Leon Avenue in Kelowna.

“Our primary concern with the current use of tents for overnight sheltering is safety-related,” said Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting. “Specifically, the close grouping of the tents with highly combustible materials around, and the observed use of unsafe heaters create a fire or carbon monoxide risk to the residents.”

The city is aware of safety concerns from other communities in the area, which include fires, propane explosions and injuries.

“Our main focus is to continue to work with our partners to find and create more shelter and supportive living spaces with BC Housing and the Journey Home Society,” said Caul. “In the meantime, we’re all trying to keep people safe and maintain order in what is a not a good situation for anyone involved, including businesses.”

Additional RCMP foot patrols have been added to the area, accompanying existing patrols from the RCMP Downtown Enforcement Unit, Bylaw Services and Downtown Kelowna Association Patrol.

Through supportive housing project, the city said 215 people who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Kelowna have been housed since 2017. New apartments planned for 2020-21 will see another 150 people in supportive housing, through provincial initiatives implemented by BC Housing.

READ MORE: Kelowna businesses fleeing Leon Avenue due to tent city

READ MORE: ‘Homes not shelters’: Those living on Kelowna streets rally for rights


@michaelrdrguez
michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Enderby’s drive-in not safe from top doc’s 50-car limit

Starlight Drive-In opened with reduced capacity, COVID-19 safety measures in place

COVID-19: Parking lot patios a go in Vernon

Council votes in favour of allowing businesses to expand commercial space into on-street parking spots

Vernon gym knocked out by COVID-19

9Round Fitness in Vernon Square Mall owners announce permanent closure of facility

North Okanagan regional district board delays food scraps ban

Move is to help businesses and organizations during pandemic

2019 payroll costs City of Vernon $26M

City discloses remuneration report and CAO is top earner

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

Shuswap cabin owner disputes request to stay home in Alberta

Alberta resident redrafts response to CSRD request to stay home

Petition seeks to clean up Okanagan forests ‘carpeted’ with shotgun shells

Penticton man says making shot-gun shells refundable would create cleaner forests

Kelowna’s main drag will be closed to vehicles this summer

Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue will be a pedestrian-only roadway from June 29 through the Labour Day long weekend

Snapshot: Distanced dancing in Salmon Arm

Friends use picnic shelter at Blackburn Park for safe practice

Kelowna’s Homebase Baseball Tournament cancelled

A live auction will still take place to raise funds for Joeanna’s House

Kelowna General Hospital Foundation launches fundraising initiative to support local health care

The initiative also highlights workers at Kelowna General Hospital

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Most Read