West Kelowna  

West Kelowna proposing new shelter near city-owned gravel pit

New shelter at gravel pit?

The City of West Kelowna is considering putting a new homeless shelter at a gravel pit.

In an application the city's Advisory Planning Commission will review next Wednesday, city staff propose putting a 40-bed shelter at the city-owned industrial lot at 2515 Bartley Road, near the intersection of Bartley Road and Stevens/Shannon Lake roads. The site is currently used by the city’s Public Works department for storage and operations, along with gravel extraction.

The shelter at the United Church on Brown Road, which has been in operation since 2018, will be closing this summer, after the property recently sold. Since the property was listed for sale last summer, the City of West Kelowna and BC Housing have been looking for a new permanent shelter site.

And while they've been unable to secure a permanent location, they've identified the industrial area on Bartley Road as a temporary, three-year solution.

“Without other funded shelter options for these West Kelowna residents, there will be 38 individuals who will have to seek shelters outdoors,” City of West Kelowna community support specialist Jen Kanters said in the recent application.

“This means that many individuals will go without seeing their daily supports and care team, currently operating out of and visiting Brown Rd.”

But the report noted some obvious problems with the site, including “potential negative impacts” for residents.

“There are plans to resume gravel extraction activities in close proximity to the proposed shelter site,” Kanters wrote. “It is unknown how these activities will affect shelter guests and staff in regards to noise, dust and heavy machinery operation during active extraction.”

If the shelter is built at the gravel pit location, a 2.2-metre wall will be built around the facility to mitigate dust and noise, while water misters will be used in an attempt to help with the dust issue.

She notes that shelters are best suited to more residential environments, due to their proximity to needed services, but “this has proven to be a challenge based on lack of available land.”

The proposed modular shelter will be operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society, an organization that also runs shelters in Kelowna and Vernon. Turning Points and BC Housing have sent letters to others in the neighbourhood about the proposed shelter, and if approved, they'll create a Community Advisory Committee to ensure neighbours have an avenue to express any concerns.

“These commitments include 24/7 staffing, perimeter checks and clean up several times a day, as well as a direct contact to the site manager,” BC Housing said in a letter. “Access control including cameras, FOB limited access, gating and fencing to the site will also be included. Limited site landscaping is planned to provide an element of privacy for both guests and community.”

The city's Advisory Planning Commission will review the application next Wednesday. The proposal is expected to go before city council at a later date.

West Kelowna also currently has a temporary COVID-19 shelter for 40 people set up at the Super 8 motel off Westgate Road, which is also operated by Turning Points. But Kanters says that space is consistently at full capacity. BC Housing funding for that location is set to expire in March 2022.

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