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Residents upset after learning West Kelowna motel to house homeless people all summer

This tent is used as a safe injection site behind the Super 8 motel in West Kelowna.
June 22, 2020 - 2:51 PM

Gail Hinter was never notified that the motel across the street from her West Kelowna home was going to become a homeless shelter.

People started moving into the Super 8 motel back in February and that’s when she started asking questions of B.C. Hosing and others.

“I was told it was supposed to be for self-isolating,” Hinter told today, June 22. “Back on June 5, B.C. Housing told me there were 29 people there. I asked ‘does that include the people climbing in and out of the windows?’”

She was told by B.C. Housing that it was renting 40 rooms there.

B.C. Housing told it could not comment before tomorrow.

"The locations of our isolations sites aren’t being disclosed so that these facilities can operate privately and focus on helping people, who need a safe place to self-isolate," B.C. Housing wrote in an email to following a similar request for information about a Lake Country motel housing homeless people. "If the locations of the confirmed sites were to be released, this could jeopardize negotiations with other hotel providers."

READ MORE: Problems with Lake Country's Airport Inn have moved across town

Hinter has a clear view of the lawn where she says people lie in the sun and shoot up, and she can easily see the two tents being used as a safe injection site.

She’s lived at the Trail Park Mobile Villas for 30 years. Now, if she gets up late into the night, she sees people walking down the park’s small street.

Dave, one of the maintenance people at the RV park who didn't want to give his last name, says they’ve had to lock their garbage bins at night to keep people out and numerous vehicles have been rummaged through at night.

“They’re very aggressive,” he said. “They’ll come at you with sticks or clubs or whatever is in their hands at the time.”

While not actually attacking him as he tries to get them to leave, they definitely stand their ground and hurl obscenities. The motel residents are frequently fighting amongst themselves and tend to wander the neighbourhood late into the night.

Some seem to be longer term residents at the motel while others have not been around that long, he said.

While was talking to Hinter, Tammy Sanders walked up to collect Hinter’s name on a petition she’s hoping to take to West Kelowna city council. It’s to go with the petition that’s being circulated online.

“I don’t object to them being housed,” Sanders said. “It’s just the location. That spot is not suitable.”

Just down Ross Road from the motel is a daycare centre. Children walk in groups along the shoulder of the road where needles are frequently found. Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary School is 600 metres away. Constable Neil Bruce Middle School and Hudson Road Elementary School are a bit over one kilometre away and there’s a transit hub close by.

“When my son goes to the high school next September, I don’t want to still be talking about this,” Sanders said.

No one was notified that the motel was going to house homeless people but Sanders said her friend Kim Johann started the petition when she learned that B.C. Housing had extended what was supposed to be a temporary use to something that will stay open until September, at least, with the drugs, needles and theft continuing through the neighbourhood.

Turning Points Collaborative Society, out of Vernon, has the contract to manage the site, one worker said. She and other workers were told not to talk to the media and, initially, told the residents not to talk to the media either.

One resident was too busy counting and bagging empties to talk to the media, and a woman in a camper unit refused.

The petition can be found here. So far, it has more than 560 signatures.

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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