West Kelowna  

Shelter responds to report

A West Kelowna church that operates a shelter mentioned in a city report that sounded the alarm over vandalism linked to transients and the homeless agrees there is a homeless problem in the community.

And Emmanuel Church says it is working to be part of the solution.

"We have a good relationship with the city and with the RCMP and see ourselves as friends and allies when it comes to addressing homelessness in West Kelowna," says Emmanuel Church in a statement.

"Homelessness has been a growing problem in West Kelowna for many years. We don’t see ourselves as part of the problem, but part of the solution."

In a report presented to West Kelowna council Tuesday, staff outlined the fallout from a spike in homelessness

It says numerous parks in the community have been affected by broken glass, intentional damage, public defecation and urination, graffiti, camp fires and litter. Meanwhile, businesses are having to clean urine and feces from stairwells. There is concern needles are hidden in the landscaping.

The report says the problems exist, in part, due to the shelter operated by Emmanuel Church.

"Churches are magnets to the disenfranchised, and we were seeing an uptick in encounters with transients and the homeless over the last few years," said Emmanuel in the statement.

It said it opened a temporary cold-weather shelter, which closes in March, because people were sleeping on sidewalks and in parks in the area. The shelter averages about 15 people a night, most of whom consider West Kelowna their home. 

They arrive at 7 p.m., eat a meal, sleep through the night and then are given a bagged lunch and leave by 8 a.m. 

"Although the program does provide a place for people who may be struggling with addictions and mental illness, it does not tolerate inappropriate behaviour," said the church. 

"At the end of the day, we believe that all of us as citizens need a made-in-West Kelowna solution for addressing homelessness. And we would like to partner with the city for the best possible solution. 

"I would love to see the city initiate a homelessness task force to present recommendations for dealing with a problem that affects us all." 

The director of the church's shelter program will be presenting to town council at its next meeting.

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