Not supportive housing, not winter shelters, but homes, Kelowna's Leon Ave homeless group demands - InfoNews

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Not supportive housing, not winter shelters, but homes, Kelowna's Leon Ave homeless group demands

Leon Avenue tenter Ryan Hart told the media about his frustration with bylaw and police officers taking his stuff. In the background is Isabel Krupp from Alliance Against Displacement.
November 12, 2019 - 3:31 PM

While some Kelowna neighbourhoods have rallied against supportive housing for the homeless, those who are prospective tenants are saying that’s not good enough.

A Vancouver-based advocacy group called Alliance Against Displacement, met with residents of Kelowna’s Leon Avenue tent city over two days last week and helped them draft a petition that was discussed at a press conference today, Nov 12.

The key message was that a proposed “mat” program for emergency winter shelter was not suitable, nor are supportive housing complexes.

“A lot of us have broken parts here,” Dee, one of the street people said. “I’ve got two broken knees. I can’t get up and down off mats.”

She objected to the rules in shelters and supportive housing. In the shelters, people have to be in by 9 p.m. while teenagers can be out on the streets as late as they want, she noted.

“We don’t want to live by other people’s rules,” Dee said.

As for supportive housing, guest are limited and, in some cases, children are not allowed, which would prevent her grandchildren from visiting.

“You’re still living by other people’s rules,” she said, suggesting instead that someone “buy an empty, abandoned hotel” for the homeless.

Prior to the press conference, Isabel Krupp, a member of the alliance, outlined concerns about both housing options now being offered.

“We want homes, not shelters,” she said, noting that many cities open up a few shelter beds then use that as an excuse to get rid of all homeless campers. She said 170 temporary beds were opened recently in Surrey but there at 1,000 homeless people in that city, the rest of whom were moved off the streets.

As for supportive housing, her concern is that residents do not sign leases. They sign program participation agreements, which are used to try to exclude them from protection under the Residential Tenancy Branch.

She also expressed concern about the close relationship between operators of the housing and the RCMP, which can lead to criminalization of the residents.

Other points in the petition were that police and bylaw officers stop stealing from homeless people and that a hotel be purchased to house them.

As Dee expressed, that could be an abandoned or run down motel.

But, when asked how that was to be funded, Krupp had to pause, then suggested: “tax the right to house the poor.”

So, what is her solution?

“Social housing,” she said, noting she grew up in such housing but it’s no longer funded by senior government.

That was the message delivered by tent city residents.

“Make it affordable,” Brendon and Caitlyn Jeffrey said. They’re a married couple living on the street and working day jobs as much as they can in the hopes of getting enough money together for a damage deposit.

Journey Home, the society working on a strategy to, essentially, eliminate homelessness in Kelowna was quick to respond.

“At this time, having an outside group descend upon our community with their own ideas, interpretations and agendas, while so many in the community are working towards the common goal of providing outreach and support to as many as possible is a frustrating distraction,” Dr. Kyleen Myrah, board chair for Journey Home said in a news release. “It is more important than ever to stay the course and focus our efforts, continuing to work collaboratively towards the development of community-based solutions to our issues.

“The need for a temporary winter shelter program for Kelowna is evident. We recognize that the situation on Leon Ave is not acceptable or sustainable. BC Housing has the mandate and funding to deliver supportive housing and temporary winter shelter programs and we continue to work with them on solutions for our community. Since 2018, over 130 individuals experiencing homelessness have been housed and there are three provincially funded housing with supports buildings in development that will provide another 100 units for members of our community in 2020.”

Meanwhile, Alliance Against Displacement is looking to raise money to cover the costs of its two five-day tours of homeless camps in the Interior. 

A gofundme page says they spent $1,000 on printing for pamphlets ($1,000), gas ($2,737), snow tires for two vans ($1,600), food ($2,000), extra camping gear ($500) and $2,000 in stipends — $20 per day per person. 

They raised $900 of a $6,000 target. 


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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