Outdoor Overnight Sheltering in Designated Sites
We recognize that the response to the rapid and surprising growth of people sheltering outside is less than ideal for those that are or could potentially be impacted. Our goal through the Journey Home Strategy and support of the provincial government is to eliminate the need for anyone to have to shelter outside.
Fuller Ave Temporary Housing Announcement
Leon Avenue Transition
Kelowna is facing a rapid and surprising increase of people living outside on Leon Ave, without homes. Up until Nov. 26, the City had not been enforcing the prohibition of sheltering along Leon Ave. However, the Kelowna Fire Department informed the City the fire risk was not acceptable due to the proximity of tents as the result of the rapid and surprising increase in people. Shelters are at capacity and the City has a legislated obligation to provide public sites for outdoor overnight sheltering to occur until such time as housing is in place or shelter space is freed up.
Two park sites have been designated: 551 Recreation Ave and 565 Poplar Point Dr. Sheltering will only be permitted between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m.
The Central Okanagan Journey Home Society, BC Housing and the City are continuing to try and secure temporary winter shelter spaces to minimize the number of people who need to shelter outside. They continue to work diligently to find solutions.
BC Housing has created 130 new units of housing with supports over the past two years in Kelowna and will open another 150 units or more over the next two years. The first 50 units are expected to open in the spring of 2020 with the next 50 scheduled to open in the summer. For more information about housing with supports, visit BC Housing.
The current situation has evolved over a very long time and it will take time to solve given that the demand for housing continues to grow.
We appreciate the community’s patience and understanding while we continue to work with our partners on short, medium and long-term solutions through the Journey Home Strategy.
It was a decision based on safety hazards. The Fire Department identified the dangers and other senior City staff were pulled together to create a plan to relocate people from what was never an ideal site for overnight outdoor shelter.
While there is no ideal outdoor location for people to shelter overnight in our community, two sites have been selected in the north end of the city. It was felt they best balanced the rights of the people sheltering outside with people impacted in the neighbouring areas and broader community. The sites also balance the legal obligations, humanitarian interests and operational risks.
The sites were selected based on a number of factors that considered the current use, amenities and programming at the site, the accessibility of the site not only for the people sheltering there, but also for emergency services, and the distance to services in the core of the city.
The following principles were applied:
- The sites needed to minimize potential traffic risk for motorists and people moving between the sites and supportive services downtown
- The sites had to be large enough to allow for safe spacing between shelters for fire safety
- The sites had to allow quick access to ensure the safety of both the people sheltering at the site and emergency responders
- The sites had to mitigate potential conflicts between those seeking safe overnight shelter and other public uses
The access point and entry to the sheltering area is separated from where people would be parking and accessing the curling centre. The baseball diamonds are not used at this time of year.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely and adapt as new solutions are found. This is a response to a rapidly changing situation due to a lack of social housing, emergency shelters and the growth in the number of people sheltering outside. This is not a long-term solution. When there are enough shelter beds or housing to accommodate those in need, overnight sheltering in public spaces will no longer be legally required or allowed by the City.
Staff were directed on Monday, Nov. 18 to plan and operationalize new sites for overnight sheltering based on the Kelowna Fire Department’s concern with fire safety and lack of imminent new indoor emergency shelter spaces.
Several reasons but the main ones include lack of available land, appropriate buildings and operators and staff to manage the shelter space.
We’re still working every day with other community agencies to identify locations.
The Kelowna Fire Department has stated the fire risk is not acceptable. Leon Avenue was only meant to be a short-term solution until new emergency shelters were identified and operationalized. Unfortunately to date this has not occurred and in the meantime the rapid and surprising growth of people living without homes on Leon Avenue is significant.
Best practices and experiences from other communities indicate that a single, large outdoor shelter area makes it more challenging to do what these sites are meant to do – offer overnight shelter in a safe place while minimizing impacts on the surrounding neighbours. Having a few sites with fewer people in them minimizes the impact to the neighbourhood, considers safety and access for emergency personnel and provides choice for those sheltering outside.
We recognize the lack of notice to all impacted parties is less than ideal and apologize. Unfortunately, for situations like this it is important that everyone that may be impacted be advised at the same time.
We are responding to a rapid and surprising growth of the amount of people overnight sheltering outside on Leon Avenue. Staff were mobilized on Monday, Nov. 18 as a result of the Kelowna Fire Department’s concern around fire risk due to the proximity of tents on Leon Avenue and the lack of imminent new indoor emergency shelters. Council directed staff to plan and operationalize options which were presented back to Council on Nov. 25 and acted on the following day.
We recognize this solution is not ideal for any of the impacted parties and are continuing to work with BC Housing and the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society to find both short and long-term solutions to eliminate the need for overnight outdoor sheltering.
We all agree this isn’t great for anyone, but our first priority is to protect people who are living outdoors from what had become a dangerous situation on Leon Avenue.
There are several warming options currently available for people throughout the day. We are also working every day with many other agencies to try and secure additional indoor spaces where people can shelter and get warm when the temperatures drop. When we have news about additional indoor places people can go, outreach staff will make sure people living outdoors know where to go.
As conditions warrant, the City will distribute additional items for warmth that include blankets, hats, mittens, handwarmers, etc. When conditions warrant, an overnight warming tent will be operational from 7 p.m. - 9 a.m. The City is also providing daily transportation from the designated site being used, to the support services in the area.
The City is continuing to work with BC Housing and the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society to find both short and long-term solutions to eliminate the need for overnight outdoor sheltering.
The Shantz decision by the BC Supreme Court clearly outlined the balance of rights betwen those requiring outdoor shelter, the neighbourhood and the broader community. The legal decision was to permit overnight shelter but no daytime shelter.
The City continues to balance legal obligations, compassionate enforcement and humanitarian efforts. There are several warming options available for people during the day. We also continue to work with many other agencies to try and secure additional indoor overnight spaces where people can shelter and get warm in these conditions. When we have news about additional places where people can go, outreach staff will ensure that the people sheltering outside know where to go. When there are enough shelter beds or housing to accommodate those in need, overnight sheltering in public spaces will no longer be legally required or allowed by the City.
In response to the colder temperatures overnight, an additional warming resource (overnight warming tent) is being provided at the Recreation Ave location.
We felt it was important to provide additional warming resources during for people who are sheltering overnight at the Recreation Ave designated site, given the colder temperatures. The warming tent will be operational as conditions warrant, during the night only. People sheltering overnight at the Recreation Avenue site are still expected to have their tents down by 9 a.m.
Maintaining quality of life and safety for all Kelowna residents is the highest priority. We are implementing planning and actions to reduce the impact on surrounding neighbourhoods.
- Two security personnel will be monitoring the sites and the immediate areas from 6 p.m. - 11 a.m.
- Active monitoring of CCTV to occur between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- The RCMP and City Bylaw will be increasing patrols in the neighbourhoods.
- Set-up and take-down times will be strictly enforced.
- The sites will be cleaned daily by Park Services contractors. The sites and surrounding areas will also be swept for improrperly disposed sharps. We will track where needles are reported, monitor and adjust sweeps as necessary.
- Basic hygienic amenities will be provided at the two locations (toilets, water, garbage disposal, sharps disposal) and, as conditions warrant, we will distribute additional items for warmth (toques, mittens, blankets, hand warmers, etc.) and a warming tent operational.
- There is also daily transportation being provided from the designated site being used, to the support services in the area.
- Interior Health outreach visits the Recreation Ave site twice per day to provide information about available services, address health concerns, provide harm reduction and directs people to services at Kelowna's Gospel Mission and Metro.
- Outreach workers from Kelowna's Gospel Mission, the Bridge Youth & Family Services Society, CMHA Kelowna and the Ki-Low Na Friendship Society have also been visiting the site to offer support.
The City is aware of Provincial Bill 41, Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People's Act, that was introduced into the Legislature in October 2019. The actual implications of the legislation, once brought into force, will be open to interpretation. We will continue to work with senior levels of government and our community partners to implement short and long-term solutions to eliminate the need for anyone to shelter outside.
In the creation of the community-built, Journey Home Strategy, the Indigenous community was an important part of the consultation and Task Force that informed the strategy. Reconciliation is built into the values for the strategy to help ensure that the voice of many diverse communities and populations are at the core of the implementation of the plan.
Between the hours of 7 a.m. – midnight, call Bylaw at 250-469-8686.
Between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., call the RCMP non-emergency line at 250- 762-3300.
Please do not drop off items directly to those sheltering outside given that they do not have a lot of personal storage locations available to them. Please read related news release from Dec. 6, 2019.
As conditions warrant, the City is providing people with additional warming items (blankets, toques, mittens, hand/foot warmers, etc.) as well as on-site warming features. The City is also providing daily transportation from the designated site being used, to the support services in the area.
Interior Health outreach visits the Recreation Ave site twice per day to provide information about available services, address health concerns, provide harm reduction and directs people to services at Kelowna's Gospel Mission and Metro. Outreach workers from Kelowna's Gospel Mission, the Bridge Youth & Family Services Society, CMHA Kelowna and the Ki-Low Na Friendship Society have also been visiting the site to offer support.
If you are looking to support those living without homes in our community, the following agencies provide services and support for people experiencing homelessness and you can contact them directly to ask what items are needed on any given day and where items should be dropped off.
If you see a crime taking place or are in immediate danger, please contact 911.
The City of Kelowna has set up a hotline to answer any questions and address concerns from the community. It can be reached Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 250-862-0440.