Kelowna attempts to address concerns about homeless tent city relocation | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna attempts to address concerns about homeless tent city relocation

Homeless campers at are pictured at one of two sites in Kelowna in this submitted photo, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2019.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Grant Stovel
November 27, 2019 - 4:00 PM

The seemingly sudden relocation of Kelowna’s tent city has raised a lot of questions in the last 24 hours and now the City is trying to answer them.

In a wide-sweeping statement posted to its website, the City addresses everything from how long the camp spaces will be provided to what they’re doing to ensure that the people living in tents are kept warm as an arctic chill rolls into the Okanagan.

First, however, they address the location.

The City said the north end was chosen because it “best balanced the rights of the people sheltering outside with people impacted in the neighbouring areas and broader community.”

The areas are accessible not only for people sheltering there but also for emergency services, and there's a minimal distance to services in the core of the city.

While the City says it is only providing these camp spots until there are enough shelter beds available, it doesn't say specifically when that will be, only that it's been difficult to find an appropriate space. It also seems to acknowledge community concerns over a large, long term tent city were also factored in.

The decision to divide the camps between two addresses came from learning from other communities that large outdoor shelter areas make it more challenging to offer a safe sleeping space while minimizing impacts on the surrounding neighbours.

“Having a few sites with fewer people in them minimizes the impact to the neighbourhood, considers safety and access for emergency personnel and provides choice for those sheltering outside,” according to the City.

As for concerns about the well-being of the tent-living population itself, the City said it will distribute additional items for warmth.

“We have also provided properly vented outdoor heaters, inspected and approved by the Kelowna Fire Department,” reads the statement.

By day, there are several options currently available for people and the City said it’s working every day with many other agencies to try and secure additional indoor spaces where people can shelter and get warm when the temperatures drop.

"When we have news about additional indoor places people can go, outreach staff will make sure people living outdoors know where it is."

To read the full statement go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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