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

Three Calgary men make smart decision when lost in North Shuswap

Adventurers’ vehicle breaks down at night in Seymour Arm area

RCMP report that suspect in North Shuswap threatened to kill neighbours

Police say man was arrested with loaded weapons inside vehicle and residence

High water levels on Shuswap Lake may close popular Canoe Beach

Salmon Arm city staff say rain predicted could flood tunnel, causing beach closure

Sandbagging continues for flood-prone areas around Shuswap, Mara lakes

Shuswap Emergency Program closely monitoring water levels

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

Summerland man rescued following ATV accident

Helicopters used to transport injured man to Kelowna for treatment

Mother bear and two cubs spotted in West Kelowna

Residents of Shannon Lake are urged to be on the look out for three bears in the area

Social justice advocate yells at Kelowna council, demands presence at Black Lives Matter rally

Heather Friesen has again taken to council chambers to make her opinion heard

Youth filmmakers tackle technology addiction, relationships, cyber-bullying

The Kelowna couple won a grant from Telus STORYHIVE

Vernon videographer captures thunderstorm

See the ‘best bits’ of Saturday’s storm

Dyer: I left my heart in the desert

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Most Read