As homeless shelters close in Kelowna, Recreation Avenue campground comes back to life | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

As homeless shelters close in Kelowna, Recreation Avenue campground comes back to life

The homeless campground at Recreation Avenue is being occupied again now that emergency winter shelters have closed.

After being virtually deserted during the winter, people are setting up tents again at the designated campground area next the the curling club on Recreation Avenue in Kelowna.

“As long as we have more people in need of shelter than we have indoor sheltering space in the city, the City has a continuing legal obligation to designate public space in which overnight sheltering is not prohibited,” Kelowna community safety director Darren Caul told yesterday, March 31.

Camping is no longer allowed in the area at the foot of Knox Mountain that was designated as a second camping spot last December because of concerns about fires, Caul said.

Last fall, dozens of homeless people were allowed to camp on Leon Avenue sidewalks. Most stayed near the Gospel Mission homeless shelter that was available to them for things like meals, showers and laundry.

They were allowed to keep their tents up all day but had to move them several times a week so the sidewalks could be cleaned.

On Nov. 26, the City moved the homeless off the street and they all, initially, set up at Recreation Avenue, although a few did eventually camp at Knox Mountain. At its peak there were about 50 people at Recreation Avenue, along with a warming tent and, later, a safe injection tent.

As emergency winter shelter spaces were opened in early January, most moved indoors but the Fuller Bridge Housing, Welcome Inn and West Kelowna shelters were all closed over the past week. In order to keep safe distances, the Gospel Mission has reduced its occupancy to 56 beds from 90.

More than 50 people have moved into supportive housing at Samuel Place in Rutland.

Emergency winter shelters in Penticton and Kamloops are remaining open until June.

There are now about 20 people a night at Recreation Avenue but sometimes as many as 35, Caul said.

Because of COVID-19, the camping area has been expanded to allow for social distancing, there are more portable toilets and they have hand washing stations in them. The nearby Metro Church (in the same building where the Welcome Inn shelter had been) will offer laundry and shower facilities.

The Gospel Mission, in conjunction with the Salvation Army, will be providing breakfasts and dinners at Recreation Avenue. Dinners are from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. and open to those in the community who used to go to the Mission. They will be provided in the parking lot at the Kelowna Curling Club.

Tents will have to be packed up every morning, just as in the winter.

The Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society has put a call out for tents, blankets and tarps.

The Gospel Mission has expanded to two outreach teams.

"Our outreach will be in the city as well as various neighbourhoods of Kelowna," states a news release from the Gospel Mission. "We want to assure our community that we are still serving those in need and no one in Kelowna, living on the streets, will go hungry.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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