West Kelowna city council says yes to an emergency winter shelter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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West Kelowna city council says yes to an emergency winter shelter

West Kelowna Council got a rundown on its 2019 budget yesterday
December 10, 2019 - 3:42 PM

Despite an 800-name petition and dozens of letters against an emergency shelter for the homeless in West Kelowna, city council agreed to allow the temporary use of a property on Stevens Road for just such a shelter.

Four trailers will be set up at the site at 1160 Stevens Rd. but they likely won't be ready for use until January and the facility is set to close at the end of March. Today, Dec. 10, council allowed for some flexibility in case of a cold spring as it granted a temporary permit that lets it stay in place until the end of April, if necessary.

“It will make a huge difference to 40 people living outside,” Ann Howard, director for the Interior region of B.C. Housing, told council. “It even could mean the difference to their lives or their deaths.”

Council members had concerns about this application coming to council so late in the year, with some of them saying they felt ambushed and backed into a corner.

“Why was this site chosen?” Howard said. “It’s not because it’s perfect but because it’s the only one we could close on now. This search has been going on for the last year-and-a-half. Every time we’ve tried, a door closed. This one remained open until now."

She was asked about the fact that drugs will be allowed and there will be a supervised overdose prevention area on-site and whether B.C. Housing has thought about requiring residents to, at least, consider changing their drug use habits.

“With housing, that is an option,” Howard said. “In a shelter that is trying to get people in from the cold, it doesn’t work. The main thing is saving lives, both from the cold and from the consequences of their addictions.”

Mayor Gord Milsom pointed out that many homeless people are already using drugs throughout the community.

“It doesn’t matter where we put it,” an emotional Coun. Jason Friesen said. “The stats and probability of crime doesn’t matter. Those numbers are always going to be there."

"This is a massive issue, I get it. We have people that really need to get out of the cold. We’re being asked, in a lot of cases, to prioritize the life of one person over fears of others. It doesn’t matter what we do. These people are in our community. They need to be helped.”

Despite many concerns from councillors, the motion passed unanimously.

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