Kelowna shelters continue providing safe spaces
KELOWNA - People experiencing homelessness in Kelowna will continue to have access to safe, warm beds with the extension of leases on the Richter Street and Doyle Avenue shelters.
“Too many people are sleeping in parks, on sidewalks and in doorways in our province. We need to do better,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “Part of that work means having emergency shelter spaces open so that people can access basic services and find their feet, and we can help them get back into housing as it opens. I’m grateful to Kelowna for their work and partnership in helping us respond to the housing crisis faced by far too many British Columbians.”
The shelter at 1083 Richter St. has operated 50 beds since opening in January 2021. The lease was set to expire on March 31, 2022. BC Housing, in partnership with Turning Points Collaborative Society and the City of Kelowna, has signed a lease extension to continue offering shelter services at the site until March 31, 2023.
“As we slowly come out of the pandemic, we see the need for shelter services in Kelowna is greater than ever,” said Randene Wejr, executive director, Turning Points Collaborative Society. “The poisoned opioid crisis continues to plague us, and affordable housing stock is almost non-existent. Turning Points will continue to work on long-term solutions for housing while providing services and supports for anyone at risk of homelessness in our community."
BC Housing has also made an agreement to extend the lease for the 60-bed shelter at 550 Doyle Ave., which was set to expire at the end of March, until June 30, 2022. This additional three months will give BC Housing and the City of Kelowna more time to find new shelter locations. Kelowna’s Gospel Mission will continue to operate the shelter through the remainder of the lease.
“We are grateful beyond words for the opportunity to continue to provide safe shelter and community for those in our care past March 31,” said Carmen Rempel, executive director, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. “Anxieties have run high this past month as our residents have been preparing to sleep outside. They will be relieved to hear that they will still have a warm bed come April 1.”
The shelter at the Unitarian Church was opened to provide temporary winter spaces for people and will close March 31, 2022, as planned.
“We are grateful for the hard work that BC Housing and our local shelter operators continue to do to ensure everyone in our city has a safe place to sleep,” said Sue Wheeler, social development manager at the City of Kelowna. “It takes an entire community working together to ensure that our vulnerable residents’ needs are met.”
In addition to shelters, BC Housing is hoping to extend the leases at multiple hotels in Kelowna that are providing supported indoor spaces for 82 people. BC Housing is looking at all opportunities to increase capacity at these leased sites to accommodate more people sleeping outdoors in the community.
“Providing shelter is at the heart of what we do at Mission Group,” said Jon Friesen, CEO, Mission Group. “When we say ‘Build it Forward,’ we mean that. Creating spaces that are safe, warm and accessible is and will always be our purpose. With every community we introduce to the Okanagan, we work to find ways to help people experiencing homelessness as well.”
Shelters are not a long-term solution to homelessness, which is why the Province, through BC Housing, has opened 196 supportive homes in Kelowna since 2017.
- Kelowna’s March 2020 point-in-time count found at least 297 people were experiencing homelessness in the community, which was a 4% increase from 2018.
- Including these shelters, Kelowna has 276 shelter beds available to those without a home.
A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC
To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/