Here’s how $3.2 million will be spent on 'outdoor sheltering' in Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Here’s how $3.2 million will be spent on 'outdoor sheltering' in Kelowna

Tents no longer line Leon Avenue sidewalks in downtown Kelowna.
September 20, 2021 - 7:00 AM

The visible homeless issue in Kelowna is a far cry this fall from what it was two years ago when dozens of people camped out downtown on Leon Avenue near the Gospel Mission shelter.

Since then, more than 200 new supportive and other types of housing units have opened up to provide roofs over many of their heads.

Plus, the city has set up a series of outdoor camping spaces where people can put up their tents in the evenings but are required to take them back down in the morning.

READ MORE: What a difference a year makes for the homeless in Kelowna

All that costs money. In January 2020, estimated it was costing city taxpayers at least $1 million per year.

Last month, the city announced that it got a $3.2 million grant from the Strengthening Communities’ Services Program, funded by senior governments.

About one quarter of the money, $856,000, will go to outreach services that work with this vulnerable population, specifically, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Canadian Mental Health Association, Metro Community and PEOPLE Employment Services.

Another $700,000 goes to reimburses the city for 18 months to operate its current overnight sheltering site near Richter Street and the Okanagan Rail Trail. That includes costs such as security, portable toilets, daily cleaning services and fencing. Another $50,000 went towards the $90,000 cost of designing and building that site. The city contributed $40,000.

READ MORE: Kelowna taxpayers spent roughly $1 million dealing with homelessness last year

“The site was designed and developed so that, when its temporary use as an overnight sheltering location expires, it will serve as an improvement for the Rail Trail and neighbouring community,” states an email from the city.

It costs about $28,000 to $35,000 a month to operate the campsite. That includes things like security, daily clean-up, portable toilets and temporary fencing. Bylaw officer and RCMP costs are in addition to that.

Another $423,000 is going towards building and operating storage facilities for personal belongings.

“There will be a belonging storage program operated at the designated overnight sheltering site and there will be approximately three dispersed locations where belonging storage programs will be offered by partner agencies,” the emailed statement said. “Planning for the program is currently underway.”

A news release from the city earlier this week outlined how important it is for people to have a secure place to store their belongings so they don’t have to drag everything with them, often in shopping carts, during the day.

READ MORE: Kelowna 5th most expensive city in Canada to rent an apartment

“It also allows access to places people couldn’t go otherwise, like restaurants, stores and other businesses that won’t let you inside with a cart or a bag,” the release states.

It also tells the story of a woman who went for a job interview but had to drag her cart full of belongings with her, which quickly ended the interview.

“It’s a way that people can leave their baggage behind, literally,” the news release says. “People judge you when you’re pushing a cart full of stuff. They make a lot of assumptions about you. A safe place to store your stuff lets you move more freely, but it also lets you escape that judgement for a little while.”

The grant will pay $250,000 to fund an anti-stigma campaign this fall that will run through next year.

Another $294,000 goes to the city to reimburse it for the Queensway washroom that was set up last year.

The rest of the grant money will be spent on proposed daytime sheltering solutions ($250,000), COVID-19 hygiene services ($186,000), reimbursing police and bylaw officer wages ($108,000) and a temporary outdoor sheltering coordinator ($88,000).

To put it into perspective, the city could have rented apartments with the grant money instead. The most recent data on median rents in Kelowna shows the rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,600 per month. That $3.2 million would have provided 167 people with an apartment for a year.

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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