Help on the way for Kelowna, B.C., homeless following major housing announcement

Province and City of Kelowna work together to open new winter shelter, install new modular homes and create additional supportive housing.

Province announces winter shelter, modular homes and additional supportive housing

A new winter shelter opened Nov. 30, 2017 at this large former retail space on Leon Avenue. (Jaimie Kehler/ CBC)

The B.C. government made a major announcement Friday on a multifaceted housing strategy aimed at helping the growing homeless population in Kelowna, B.C.

The province and City of Kelowna are working together to open a new winter shelter in the downtown and create modular housing, as well as additional supportive housing throughout the city.

"Our government is taking immediate action to help people struggling with homelessness get off the streets," said Selina Robinson, the minister of municipal affairs and housing.

"These projects are an important start to addressing the growing issue of homelessness in Kelowna, while we continue to work with our community partners to develop permanent and sustainable housing options."

Earlier this month, Kelowna outreach workers demanded more shelter space describing the situation as approaching "crisis levels."

Winter shelter located in former retail space

As an immediate response to the issue, the province said approximately 80 temporary shelter beds are opening at 425 Leon Avenue, which will be operated by the John Howard Society.

The large space is a former retail location in the city's downtown core. The shelter opened Nov. 30 with 69 people staying overnight and will remain open until March 2018 with staff working around the clock.

In addition, the province is planning to create roughly 52 units of new, modular housing with a funding commitment of $8.1 million.

The City of Kelowna is working with B.C. Housing to determine a location and opening date.

75 additional supportive housing units

Pending approval from the City of Kelowna, an additional 55 units of supportive housing are also proposed for a property leased by B.C. Housing at 1642 Commerce Ave.

Twenty more supportive housing units will also be available at the former Good Night Inn motel at 2639 Highway 97.

Homelessness has been a growing problem throughout the Okanagan with some people sleeping in cars or in local parks. (Brady Strachan/ CBC)

"We are very pleased with the province's reinvigorated investments in housing solutions for Kelowna," said Doug Gilchrist, divisional director of community planning and strategic Investments for the city.

"These investments will add a variety of housing options to address a spectrum of needs in our community."

The B.C. government is investing $291 million to build 2,000 modular housing units across the province.

Similar projects have already been announced for Vernon, Prince Rupert and Vancouver.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.