Kelowna plans to move and replace washroom at Queensway bus stop

Bus loop washroom flushed

The City of Kelowna is closing down the "pop-up" washroom that opened in spring 2020 near the Queensway bus stop.

City of Kelowna risk manager Lance Kayfish tells Castanet the city plans to refresh the area around the washroom to improve sight lines for security purposes and replace the current version with a new high-tech self-cleaning Portland Loo washroom.

"We're going to be doing some construction and revitalization of the whole area. As part of that, the current temporary washroom kiosks are going to be removed, we will be repurposing those units," Kayfish said.

The city plans to repurpose the washroom but have yet to decide where it will be relocated.

The contract to maintain and clean the washroom is held by People Employment Services.

Lead hand Michael Bee says he's disappointed it will be closed down.

"We offer a valuable service of providing mainly homeless people as well as commuters a washroom service. It is a great asset to not only the homeless population of Kelowna but also essential for surrounding businesses," said Bee.

Kayfish says one of the options being considered is moving the current washroom unit to the homeless camp at the Rail Trail.

"We haven't decided exactly where. That could include a park or a sports field," he said.

Work in the area is expected to begin at the end of June or early July because, "The plan is to have the new washroom installed on the heels of the current washroom being moved."

One of the workers contracted to clean and supervise the washroom, Ashley Lochheed, says she hopes the washroom finds a good home and that they can keep helping.

"We clean the bathrooms making sure to check on people, make sure that nobody's overdosed. Taking care of our unhoused people, we also make sure that there's nothing left in the bathrooms. We direct people to different resources, such as shelters where they can go for food, health care, that kind of stuff," she said.

Despite not knowing where the old washroom is going, Kayfish says the current contract will be continued. It's just not clear exactly what staff like Bee and Lochheed will be doing.

"We're currently working with them to determine other activities and projects they can work on, which might include things like doing some outreach and peer navigation, which is one of the pieces of work they were doing at the Queensway location," says Kayfish.

One of the options being considered is expanding on some of the work already being done, "taking a similar service and making them more mobile."

But Kayfish says those details are still being worked out.

"Nobody is being laid off... everyone's gonna have an opportunity to continue what they are doing."

As part of the refresh, Kayfish says the steps of the museum will be repaired and access to the building will be improved.

"There's also quite a bit of concrete and other damage around the Bennett Clock area and we're looking to have a more regular enhanced maintenance service for that whole area."

The cost of the current pop-up bathroom that is going to be moved was $140,000. Kayfish says it's unclear what the concrete work and the new washroom will cost.

Similar Portland Loo washrooms installed in other B.C. cities have cost between $140,000 and $200,000

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