Homelessness, crime emerging as top Kelowna municipal election issues | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Homelessness, crime emerging as top Kelowna municipal election issues

Homelessness and crime are emerging as the top issues in the Kelowna municipal election campaign.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
September 21, 2018 - 1:30 PM

KELOWNA - Mayor Colin Basran believes the public concerns about homelessness and crime in downtown Kelowna should be the big issue in the municipal election campaign.

“It’s one that’s top of mind for a lot of residents in our community,” he said. “What you’re seeing is a societal issue that is growing in scale. It has grown to a level now that it’s starting to get the attention of every day residents.”

But his chief rival for the mayor's job, former Chamber of Commerce president Tom Dyas, doesn’t see it quite that way.

Dyas disagrees with the way the city has handled a problem that has been around for a long time but has recently jumped into the limelight and he continues to take shots at Basran’s handling of the file.

Dyas puts some of the blame for the current level of concern on the November 2017 opening of the Cornerstone emergency shelter on Leon Avenue.

“It was not good decision making, putting another shelter (Cornerstone) a block or two from an existing structure (Gospel Mission),” Dyas said, noting Cornerstone added 80 people seeking shelter to the same area of downtown.

As Chamber president, Dyas raised concerns about Cornerstone last spring, especially after its mandate as a winter-only shelter was extended.

“We didn’t lobby against having a shelter,” he said. “We lobbied against putting one shelter right next to another shelter,” he said, noting that the mix of people in the neighbourhood includes the homeless, and people with addiction and mental health problems who are preyed on by criminals.

One thing he and Basran agree on is the need to decentralize services for the homeless.

“No neighbourhood should be off limits to deal with homelessness,” Basran said. He also said that it’s not just a downtown issue as there are concerns about the Kirschner Road area and along the Rail Trail corridor.

City Hall launched the Journey Home Task Force in the spring of 2017 to find ways to deal with homelessness. Dyas was a member of that task force.

It presented it’s report to city council in June of this year with a number of recommendations, many focussing on creating more housing and support for the homeless.

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