Outdoor Overnight Sheltering in Designated Sites

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The City and its partners are taking action through the Journey Home Strategy and working with the provincial government to eliminate the need for anyone to shelter outside. In the meantime, there are people living in our community who do not have homes for a variety of reasons.

The law in British Columbia requires that where there is insufficient housing and shelter space for people experiencing homelessness, the City may not prohibit all its parks and public spaces from being used for temporary overnight sheltering for those who do not have a home. The City can, however identify which parks or public spaces the prohibition against overnight sheltering will not be applied.

Designated space at 551 Recreation Ave has been identified and is effective immediately.

The City has a legal obligation

Last fall Kelowna saw a rapid and surprising increase of people living outside on Leon Ave, without homes. Up until November, 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. With shelters at capacity 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. 

Portable washrooms, waste receptacles and sharps containers will be provided at the designated site. Temporary overnight sheltering will be from 7 pm to 9 am.

Daily removal of overnight shelters will occur to balance the rights of people experiencing homelessness with those of the broader community, to enable continued availability of City lands for public use as applicable, and to prevent the inherent risks to public health, safety and security that entrenched encampments present, as seen in other cities.

This is not a long-term solution

Homelessness is an evolving, dynamic crisis in our community. While 150 additional units of housing with supports will come on stream over the next two years, (100 in the next three months and 50 in 2021), current projections indicate that the number of people sheltering will continue to exceed available housing space for the foreseeable future. Municipalities continue to try and manage the downstream consequences resulting from poverty, lack of affordable and social housing, mental health and addiction issues.

The City and its partners continue to support the Journey Home Strategy, based on Housing First principles, and advocate for additional and diverse forms of housing so that everyone in our community can have a place to call home. When there are enough shelter beds and/or housing to accommodate those in need, temporary overnight sheltering in public spaces will no longer be legally required or permitted by the City.

Previous News

Dec 2019 - Changes to Recreation Ave Designated Outdoor Overnight Sheltering site
Dec 2019 - Welcome Inn Temporary Shelter Announcement, Welcome Inn FAQsCall for staff and volunteers
Dec 2019 - Fuller Ave Temporary Housing AnnouncementFAQs, Fact Sheet

More information about temporary overnight sheltering
How was the site selected?

Due to an insufficient number of indoor sheltering spaces, the City has a legal obligation not to prohibit overnight sheltering in public spaces. In November 2019 two designated spaces at 565 Poplar Point and 551 Recreation Ave were identified for overnight outdoor sheltering but Poplar Point is no longer appropriate due to fire risk during the warmer seasons.

While there is no ideal outdoor location for people to shelter overnight in our community, the City continues to try and balance legal obligations, humanitarian efforts and operational risks.

The designated location best balances the rights of the people sheltering outside with people impacted in the neighbouring areas and broader community as well as considering 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 site needs to minimize potential traffic risk for motorists and people moving between the sites and supportive services downtown
  • The site had to be large enough to allow for safe spacing between shelters for fire safety
  • The site had to allow quick access to ensure the safety of both the people sheltering at the site and emergency responders
  • The site had to mitigate potential conflicts between those seeking safe overnight shelter and other public uses
How long will overnight sheltering be permitted in this area?

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.

Why is it taking so long to find shelter space?

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.

There were people sleeping outdoors at this time last year, and there have been additional supportive housing units opened, why does there continue to be people sleeping outdoors?

Many factors contribute to complex social issues such as poverty, lack of affordable and social housing and the opioid crisis. While many advances have been made in the implementation of the Journey Home Strategy, the issues are very complex and will take time to fully eliminate episodic and chronic homelessness.

Why weren’t neighbours consulted/informed earlier?

We recognize the lack of notice to all impacted parties is less than ideal. Unfortunately, for situations like this it is important that everyone that may be impacted be advised at the same time.

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.

What is being done to mitigate the impact in the neighbourhood?

Maintaining quality of life and safety for all Kelowna residents is the highest priority. Through a combination of police, bylaw, security and other measures, the level of proactive attention and response to the sites and immediate areas will be enhanced at the designated site and immediate areas.

  • Active monitoring of CCTV 24/7.
  • The RCMP and City Bylaw will have an increased presence 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 improperly 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) 
  • 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.
How is the City protecting Indigenous rights through this process?

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.

If things are really loud near my home, what do I do?

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.

Should I drop off stuff to help the people sheltering outside?

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.

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.

What happens if I see a crime taking place?

If you see a crime taking place or are in immediate danger, please contact 911.