National attention on Kelowna's tent city

Spotlight on tent city

The fact that there are more than 100 people living along Kelowna’s Rail Trail isn’t news for the city’s residents.

The growing encampment has been covered extensively by local media since it was designated in 2020.

This week the site along Weddell Place in the city’s north end became political fodder on the national stage when federal Conservative party leader Pierre Pollivre tweeted a TikTok video of the camp.

“These images are not from a faraway third-world country. This is Kelowna. After eight years of Trudeau and the NDP,” he tweeted.

The video along with other versions of it racked up hundreds of thousands of views. “Kelowna” was trending nationally for most of Monday.

With Kelowna’s federal and provincial ridings held by the Conservatives and BC United, but the NDP in power in Victoria and Liberals in Ottawa — each side of the political spectrum blamed each other in the comment section.

Former and future tourists were surprised by the images. "l wish I saw this before I booked vacation there," said one tweet, while others pushed back and shared images of the city's attractive beaches and lake.

Kelowna’s tent city, also known as Outdoor Sheltering Site 4, has been growing along the Rail Trail since the city’s homeless population was moved there in 2020 from the ball fields on Recreation Avenue.

Before that, a tent city filled the sidewalks of Leon Avenue.

Under B.C. law, a city that has a shortage of shelter beds cannot ban overnight camping in all parks and public spaces, but can prohibit it from some parks while providing a space elsewhere.

On April 30, the Kelowna Gospel Mission’s outreach team recorded a total of 68 tents, with 174 people, and served 180 meals at the encampment.

The average price of a one-bedroom rent in Kelowna is $1,800, the ninth highest in the country, according to Zumper, a national portal that tracks rentals.

Castanet reached out to the mayor, who is currently in Ontario at a conference, multiple city councillors, and local tourism groups for comment on the national attention the city received this week. Nobody was available for comment.

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