West Kelowna  

Neighbours around planned homeless shelter question location

Shelter in the wrong place

Some residents and businesses around Stevens Road in West Kelowna feel they were blindsided by a proposal by BC Housing to place a temporary winter shelter in their neighbourhood.

BC Housing announced last Friday it would be applying to the city for a temporary use permit to set up the homeless shelter at 1160 Stevens Rd.

Area resident Shannon Gallivan said the news took the neighbourhood by surprise. She said letters had been sent out by BC Housing, but they didn't arrive before the announcement.

"I didn't hear about it until Friday, when you guys posted an article. Nobody knew, not even the neighbourhood residents because these (letters) went out in the mail," she said.

She said the approach was not inclusive.

Gallivan questions the location, a mainly industrial area devoid of any services the homeless would need on a daily basis.

"We need it, we understand that, but the location is not appropriate," said Gallivan.

"No one wants it in their neighbourhood, but it just doesn't make sense for what BC Housing is preaching is best for the homeless population or the population they serve. They are marginalizing them into this industrial area that doesn't have services."

The letter sent by BC Housing to those in the area says the location was selected because it is close to transit, its accessibility to existing community and social services and other "neighbourhood factors."

Gallivan claims the community and social services referenced in the letter are non-existent in the area, and has yet to hear from BC Housing as to what exactly other neighbourhood factors entails.

She questions the wisdom of introducing a homeless population into an area that, until now, has had none.

Gallivan says the 2018 Point in Time homeless count showed absolutely no homeless population in the Rose Valley, Lakeview Heights or West Kelowna Estates neighbourhoods.

An online petition has been set up for residents, business owners and employees to voice their concerns. The petition will be presented to city council Tuesday when it debates the temporary use permit application.

Should the application be approved, the shelter, which would be comprised of numerous modular trailers, could open in early January.

The trailers would include space for bunks, showers, toilets and other amenities. It would be operated by the West Kelowna Shelter Society, which has been managing a shelter inside the United Church on Brown Road since December of last year.

More West Kelowna News