Record number of homeless people at Kelowna Rail Trail camp site | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

Record number of homeless people at Kelowna Rail Trail camp site

The homeless camp along the Okanagan Rail Trail.

A record number of people are sleeping rough at Kelowna’s homeless camping site along the Okanagan Rail Trail.

The City of Kelowna counted 87 individuals using the overnight campsite Thursday, Sept. 29, which is a record. The camp opened in May, 2021. It has a capacity of 50 people, the city's risk manager Lance Kayfish said.

Last weekend, an alleged drunk driver hit a man who had been staying at the site, causing serious injuries. Tyler Manchur, born in 1992, was charged with one count of impaired operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm and one count of driving while prohibited.

READ MORE: Suspect charged after pickup runs over man in Kelowna homeless camp

Currently, the city has no plans to move the overnight sheltering site but Kayfish said the city will be examining what it can do to ensure it’s a safe, desirable space like installing additional barriers between the rail trail and where people are sleeping.

“Well over six figures (was) spent on the site to make a safe, desirable space to be to make people feel comfortable,” he said, adding landscaping, trees and berms were installed after consultation with service providers and those who have experienced homelessness.

The homeless camp along the Okanagan Rail Trail.
The homeless camp along the Okanagan Rail Trail.

“What happened this (past) weekend was a super unfortunate, tragic incident… those are the sorts of things that can happen anywhere, at any time,” he said, adding the main consideration now is the trauma experienced by the sheltering population due to the incident and recent overdose deaths. This past weekend, the Kelowna RCMP reported they responded to five overdose deaths in a single day.

READ MORE: 5 deaths reported in one day in Central Okanagan due to overdoses

“I don’t think people are being deterred (from staying there). I do think there’s still a sense of community and safety but that doesn’t mean we’re not looking to make sure we can do some things to enhance the sense of safety."

There are no plans at this time to move the site as the city anticipates the Bay Avenue and Ellis Street shelter at the former B.C. Tree Fruit site will be opening soon and alleviate pressure at the overnight shelter, said Darren Caul, community safety director, via email.

READ MORE: $24 million building in Kelowna being converted to homeless shelter

The new shelter will be managed by Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and will have 60 units. Sonja Menyes, volunteer manager with the non-profit, said they recently held a job fair due to the difficulty in attracting candidates for the shelter positions.

They're still looking to fill some overnight positions but were able to hire people from the fair.

"We've never had one before, or been in this position where we're looking for people," Menyes said.

The new shelter is expected to open soon, and an official announcement regarding the opening date will be made Oct. 7.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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