August 08, 2016 - 8:00 PM
KELOWNA - A park-style courtyard next to the Kelowna Gospel Mission is already doing what it was designed to do — give the homeless somewhere to go during the day and reduce their street presence on Leon Avenue.
“We’ve already noticed fewer people on the sidewalks,” development manager Mike Morrison said.
Dubbed the Courtyard Project, it was announced last year the mission would convert a building for which it held a long-term lease into an open air plaza.
The aim was to reduce conflicts in the downtown core over loitering between street people and police, bylaw enforcement and local businesses.
The 2,500 square foot courtyard has been open for about a month, Monday to Friday, Morrison said, with the requirement there be at least one staff member and one volunteer on duty in the courtyard whenever it is open.
One man waiting outside for the courtyard to open gave a cautious thumbs up to the new facility.
"I like that I won't get chased out of here like in the park," he said. He declined to give his name.
One issue the courtyard does not address is the prolifieration of overloaded shopping carts on city sidewalks, one of the main complaints from local businesses.
Shopping carts and bikes are not allowed in the courtyard, although Morrison said the mission is working with the city on a possible solution for homeless people who balk at being separated from their possessions.
Similar rules apply for entry to the courtyard as for the mission itself; no obvious intoxication and to keep the peace. Abuse of staff or volunteers will not be tolerated.
“The idea was to give them somewhere to go where they can have a little dignity instead of sitting on the sidewalk all day,” Morrison said.
Plans are for an official opening in the fall.
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