The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is voicing concern over the province’s latest announcement that the downtown Cornerstone shelter will be open indefinitely.
“There was some indication that a transition was taking place,” Dan Rogers, the Chamber’s executive director said. “Now that’s not occurring. The media release from the government came out on a Friday of a long weekend, so some people weren’t even aware of it.”
This is the fourth time the expected closure of Cornerstone has been pushed back, Rogers said.
Prior to the latest extension, the government said the 80-bed shelter would close at the end of June.
“There needs to be greater communication directly with those being impacted by the shelter,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that while he understands the need for a shelter, he’s concerned about its proximity to the downtown Gospel Mission.
“Does ‘indefinitely’ mean it will be open 10 years from now? Five years from now? Closing next year?” Rogers asked. “They had to sign a lease in order to be in the building, so we want to know how long that lease is.”
The government confirmed Friday afternoon that the Cornerstone shelter’s lease is indefinite. The province will pay $2.4 million a year to operate the facility.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson blamed the shelter shortage on the former government, saying it had neglected housing and it takes time to build.
“I really can appreciate the frustration,” she said.
Robinson confirmed that there is no timeline for closing Cornerstone.
“At this point, we need to have an option to move to, and we’re building the supportive housing as quickly as we can.”
The government is building approximately 50 units each at new developments on both Agassiz Road and on McIntosh Road.
The mayor supported the decision to keep the shelter operating.
“Keeping Cornerstone open is a lot better than just telling 65 people to be out on the streets and having no place for them to go,” he said.