Kelowna father staying at park site for homeless dies after being found unconscious
City of Kelowna, which monitors overnight site at Recreation Avenue, says cause of death is not yet known
The City of Kelowna has confirmed that a man died early Monday morning after he was found unconscious at the park the city opened a few weeks ago to provide overnight shelter for the homeless.
Officials didn't identify the man, but his ex-girlfriend told CBC News his name was Shane Bourdin. The couple had two children together
"Despite his struggles, he was an amazing person," said Anita Anderson about 39-year-old Bourdin.
"Hands down an amazing dad! He was so caring and loved to fish, hike and camp. He was a very emotional, loving man who would give his shirt off his back for anyone even when he didn't have much."
"I now have a young son and daughter who do not have a father just nine days away from Christmas ... it's the worst case thing for our family," she said.
"He was fighting so hard and had made many good steps to get his life on track. He has a brother, sister and a mom and many others who loved this man beyond words."
The B.C. Emergency Health Services said a 911 call was received at 2:43 a.m. PT Monday "for an unconscious person at the Recreation Avenue homeless camp."
An advanced care paramedic unit arrived at 2:55 a.m and took Bourdin, who was in critical condition, to hospital.
"It's my understanding that the person was transported to hospital and subsequently died," said Darren Caul, community safety director for the City of Kelowna.
Kelowna RCMP said at just before 4 a.m., Interior Health asked them to help identify an adult male who reportedly died at the hospital after being transported there from the Recreation Avenue site.
"At this time, criminality is not suspected in the man's sudden death, and the Kelowna RCMP continue to investigate. The BC Coroners Service has been notified and is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the man's death," said Const. Solana Pare in an emailed statement.
There is currently a shortage of shelter spaces in Kelowna. However, with supportive bridge housing opening on Fuller Avenue, which is expected to open up 40 shelter spots this month, and a new winter shelter with 20 beds expected to open late December to early January, the city and province hope this will change.
In the meantime, the city legally has to allow overnight temporary shelter in parks or public spaces if there are not enough shelter spaces.
The site at Recreation Avenue only allows campers to set up tents and other forms of temporary shelter between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. PT, at which time all items have to be packed up.
Locals Diana Cowans and Ryan Hart, who are both homeless, said many in the community are shaken up by Bourdin's death.
"Everybody is pretty unnerved," Hart told CBC's Brady Strachan, while standing on Leon Avenue outside the Gospel Mission shelter.
"A couple tears came to my eyes when I heard that he passed this morning."
"He's a really good guy, he's helped me out a bunch of times in the past."
Cowans echoed this, saying the loss has "really hit home."
"He was always so happy go lucky and it didn't matter what kind of grumpy mood you were in, if he couldn't make you laugh, he could at least make you smile."
Temporary outdoor shelter
The park at Recreation Avenue was opened by the city after it shut down overnight camping on Leon Avenue in downtown Kelowna. The park is monitored overnight by security officers contracted by the city as well as by closed-circuit television cameras.
There is also a warming tent on site where blankets, hot shots, toques and mittens are offered to people on site.
"Their job as a security company is to provide that first level of security for the site and the people, and in a medical emergency to respond rapidly as they did here, to call the the professionals with that expertise," he said.
Caul confirmed there are naloxone kits available at the site, but did not know the level of training personnel have to use them.
Once people enter their tents though, it's tough to see if they need help.
"Once in those personal tents we have no legal right to enter those tents, and so it's difficult. This is tragic," said Caul.
"What we need is to move move away from such overnight sheltering in our city. And that's why we're constantly and tirelessly advocating for proper housing with supports in our community."
New supportive housing units funded by B.C. Housing for 150 people are expected to open between 2020 and 2021.
With files from Brady Strachan, Sarah Penton and Radio West