British Columbia

Security firm and harm reduction tent leaving Kelowna homeless campsite

The City of Kelowna announced Friday afternoon that with more shelter spaces opening, the park site on Recreation Avenue where people who are homeless have been tenting, will be losing many of its services starting Monday.

City says with more shelter spaces opening, there are less people staying in the park

As temperatures dip below freezing levels, people without shelter spots have been sleeping in tents at parks on Recreation Avenue and at Poplar Point. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

The City of Kelowna announced Friday afternoon that with more shelter spaces opening, the park site on Recreation Avenue where people who are homeless have been tenting, will be losing many of its services starting Monday.

In an emailed statement, the city said the security firm it contracted will no longer be monitoring the site, "citing unacceptable liability."

The firm gave notice to the city on Wednesday, two days after a man who was staying at the park on Recreation Avenue, was found unconscious and died at the hospital

With less security support, the city says the current level of services offered at the site "is no longer viable."

The warming tents and storage facilities will be removed on Monday, and Interior Health will also be removing its harm reduction tent.

The city said the opening of more shelter beds "is timely" because the operation of Recreation Avenue "is no longer sustainable."

New shelter spaces

Earlier this week, 40 people who were staying in existing shelters while waiting to move into supportive housing units coming this spring, moved into a temporary bridge housing facility on Fuller Avenue.

Twenty-six temporary shelter spaces are expected to be available on Monday and starting in January, a new temporary winter shelter is opening called Welcome Inn.

The new winter shelter, run out of the former downtown food bank building owned by Metro Community Church, will have 20 beds to begin with, but has the capacity to hold up to 40 if enough volunteers can be found to run the space.

The Welcome Inn shelter, located at 1265 Ellis Street, will have 20 beds with the hope of expanding to 40 beds to meet the demand. It's currently being renovated so it can open in early January. (Jason Siebenga)

The city, which has a shortage of shelter spaces, has previously estimated that there are 60 to 80 people who are homeless right now.

"Since the opening of Fuller Avenue, the number of people sheltering between Recreation Avenue and Poplar Point has decreased. Last night, there were a number of spaces available in shelters, and these shelters will add additional beds and mats on Monday that will be available until the Welcome Inn opens in a couple of weeks," said Darren Caul, community safety director for the city, in a statement.

"What is really unique is that many social service organizations in Kelowna are coming together to bring people indoors and are providing staff to cover the additional shifts required to make these additional spaces possible."

New supportive housing units funded by B.C. Housing for 150 people are expected to open between 2020 and 2021.

The city legally has to allow overnight temporary shelter in parks or public spaces if there are not enough shelter spaces. 

For now, the two park sites at Recreation Avenue and Poplar Point that have been designated as sleeping spots for people who are homeless will remain open.

The city said there will still be toilets, sharps disposal and garbage containers at the sites and the fencing will remain at Recreation Avenue. There will also be private security, bylaw, RCMP and Neighbourhood Patrol that will continue to monitor the sites, in addition to closed circuit television.

Tenters will still be expected to pack up everything each morning by 9 a.m. and will only be allowed to set up their tents after 7 p.m. each day. 

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