Open letter to Kelowna’s mayor and councillors,
First, let me commend you on taking proactive action on sheltering some of our homeless population.
This issue is not going to go away and (city) council has done more (so far) in your initial term than I've seen done in the past five to eight years, and this tiny homes initiative is at least a step toward providing some shelter, especially as winter comes.
With that said, I really have to strongly disagree with the second location that was announced Thursday.
To place this project on one of the most high-profile locations in the city is an absolute head scratcher. You propose to place a community of homeless people, and these small shelters, right on Highway 97 (not even tucked back a block or two) in between prominent established businesses, directly across from major car dealerships.
Kelowna already has a national reputation for our homeless problem thanks in large part to (federal Conservative Leader Pierre) Poilievre comparing Kelowna's homeless problem to a third world country
Imagine all the tourists (never mind those of us who live here) making their way from the airport to downtown and having to drive by this extremely high-profile location. What about pedestrians who walk along that part of Highway 97 between the businesses?
You must be aware that the Okanagan Rail Trail, directly behind this location, has a huge problem with the homeless population, crime, hazards, etc. How do you not realize placing a concentrated population of homeless in this location will not exacerbate the issues along the rail trail? Businesses are already dealing with vandalism and sanitary issues daily in this area.
I read in the local media recently this setup will be a "harm reduction" type of area, meaning open drug use will be permitted and tolerated. Walk down Pandosy Street, between Leon Avenue and Lawrence Avenue any time of the day to get the idea of what we can expect.
Again, I am not criticizing your good intent to help shelter those who need it. The first location you picked for this project is in an industrial area, off the beaten path, not in a location where there are lots of (members of the) public. In other words, it is a fairly appropriate location, or at least as close to that as you can get.
Placing (these second batch of home) right on the single busiest road in the city, the main arterial through Kelowna and a location highly visible to tourists and residents alike, will only further grow Kelowna's reputation as a “Third World country” type of location because this will be front and centre for everyone to see and deal with.
I am hopeful the city has other vacant land that would be a more appropriate location.
(To) Tourism Kelowna, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the local media, I implore you to get involved, bring light to this situation and try to help force a rethink on this decision before they start building this homeless “camp” in one of the highest profile locations in this city.
Peter Dixon, Kelowna