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Gospel Mission’s new plan to get homeless off the street

KELOWNA — Hundreds of homeless people in Kelowna will soon have a safe outdoor space to enjoy. Kelowna’s Gospel Mission will tear down its neighbouring retail space and build a new courtyard.

Executive director Randy Benson says many of Mission’s clients are staying in places that put them at odds with the police, business owners and people who prey on the homeless. Benson believes the new courtyard will address these issues and offer a safe alternative.

“The courtyard is a continuing effort of the Mission to end homelessness and support those in need.  Whether it is overnight shelter, a courtyard, housing solutions or the new Step-up program for men, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission is here to serve and end homelessness one person at a time,” says Benson.

However, one Mission client, Daniel McKinnon, voices concern that the new place will make it easier for people to do drug deals.

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“I strongly feel that it would be used for a drug exchange centre because of the type of area it’s in, and the people that will be hanging out in that area,” says McKinnon.

Kelowna RCMP disagrees that the courtyard will encourage drug trades. Instead, Insp. Gord Stewart says it will make it easier for police and the Mission to supervise the activities that go on in the area.

“I don’t anticipate we will have any specific issues related to this space or the fact that it brings people together,” says Insp. Stewart. “A lot of things we deal are because of people don’t have a place to go. As a result of that, they end up being involved in activities, or being preyed upon by other people, because there is no safe spot for them.”

The cost to demolish the current building and add the new facility is expected to be $80,000.

The Mission is seeking donors to help out with the costs.

Benson anticipates construction will soon be underway and be complete by the end of summer.

– With files from Kelly Hayes