Kelowna emergency homeless shelter closing; operators seeking an extension

John Howard Society of the Central Okanagan executive director Gaelene Askeland.

KELOWNA - An emergency homeless shelter in downtown Kelowna is set to close at the end of the month, putting about 80 people back onto the streets.

John Howard Society executive director Gaelene Askeland confirmed the contract to provide the Cornerstone shelter on behalf of B.C. Housing expires at the end of March.

Askeland said her organization has been advocating for an extension of the contract but has had no official response from B.C. Housing.

“Hopefully, in a week or two we will have some more information but at this point I have to say the shelter will be closing at the end of March,” she added.

Askeland hesitates to say the 80 or so residents of the Leon Avenue shelter will all be homeless come April 1 but agrees their housing prospects in Kelowna’s rental market aren’t good.

“They will be going back to where ever they came from,” she said, adding the shelter will not be accepting new clients after the end of this week.

The shelter staff have been doing what they can to help clients as month’s end approaches, Askeland said, but points out the supportive housing registry in Kelowna has 1,200 names on a waiting list.

“Hopefully they are making their own plans, making connections. Some of them are very resourceful people,” she said. “Some of them are working. Hopefully some of them will move in together.”

Still, Askeland says a good portion of the shelter’s clients are unlikely to find accommodation in the mainstream rental market, living on a fixed income and requiring supportive assistance for mental health and substance use problems.

B.C. Housing representative Laura Mathews said the organization could not respond in time to be included in this story.

Askeland is a member of the Journey Home task force, established by the City of Kelowna to recommend a protocol to deal with its street homelessness problem.

Her hope is that Cornerstone could somehow be kept open long enough for the task recommendations to be enacted after it reports to Kelowna city council in late June.

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