The City of Kelowna’s new site for temporary outdoor sheltering is now open for use.
The new site near Richter Street and Weddell Place is a short distance down the Okanagan Rail Trail from the previous location near Baillie Avenue. But the city’s community safety director Darren Caul says he’s hopeful the new site will address some of the shortcomings of the old one.
Caul added the move comes after much consideration from various groups. He said an issue commonly brought up was that the Baillie Avenue site was too far from social and support services residents facing homelessness needed, leading to residents not using it and opting to sleep at the Recreation Avenue site or to sleep rough in other places in town.
“We’ve been working on this purpose-built design (at the new site) for the last four months,” he said.
“This site is designed with input from bylaw services, RCMP and people with lived experience — those who have experienced life without homes. It’s also based on crime prevention through environmental design.”
The new site has foliage acting as privacy barriers between the rail trail and the shelter site itself, providing what Caul calls a “more natural separation between these very different user groups: those at the rail trail versus those who who have to, unfortunately, have to shelter outdoors in our city.”
It also has running water, which the previous location lacked — an important addition, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Caul said. It also has a larger usable area with better lighting.
CCTV cameras have been installed in the area to monitor issues and a combination of private security, bylaw services, and the RCMP will monitor the area and pick up sharps and help resolve issues that arise with nearby businesses if necessary.
As for feedback, Caul acknowledged that businesses in the area had concerns.
“Any time that we are repurposing public space for complex problems, complex populations, it’s concerning for people.”
“We are now doing all we can to mitigate and minimize the risks and concerns that we hear from the neighbouring community and we’re very committed to doing that.”
Caul said an important thing to remember is that outdoor shelter is temporary and will see future use by many Kelowna residents.
“This site has been designed with a long-term mindset. This means when the temporary use expires, we’ll now have a site we can use in the long run,” he said.
“This will be beneficial for rail trail users and the neighbouring community.”