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Workload for Kelowna Gospel Mission reduced following Leon Avenue clean up

For months, Leon Avenue served as a temporary outdoor shelter location for Kelowna’s homeless.

The city’s homeless shelters are at maximum capacity after seeing an unpredictable increase in the homeless population.

The removal of the tent city on Tuesday was a welcome sight for Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, which is also located on the 200 block of Leon Avenue.

READ MORE: ‘We shouldn’t have to tear down at all’: Kelowna homeless call relocation confusing, unnecessary

“Having an extra 60 to 90 people out on the street was almost like running two shelters,” said Kelowna’s Gospel Mission executive director Randy Benson.

“Our staff was taking care of them, so the workload on my staff has gone down and now we concentrate on the 90 people who are staying with us.”

On Tuesday, the City of Kelowna designated two areas for temporary overnight shelters in an effort to address safety concerns.

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The homeless that were living along the 200 block of Leon Avenue have been relocated to a park located in the city’s north end, behind the Kelowna Curling Club.

First night over at new designated overnight homeless areas
First night over at new designated overnight homeless areas

This comes after Kelowna’s fire department deemed Leon Avenue a ‘hazardous living condition,’ stating they were worried about potential fire hazards.

“Specifically, the close grouping of the tents due to the rapid and surprising growth of people sheltering outside,” Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting said in a press release.

“Highly combustible materials and the observed use of unsafe heaters creating fire or carbon monoxide risk to the residents.”

People at a rally against the decision to move Kelowna’s homeless encampment voice their concerns
People at a rally against the decision to move Kelowna’s homeless encampment voice their concerns

There is still no announcement from the city on an emergency, cold-weather shelter plan or a more permanent solution for Kelowna’s homelessness issue.

“This is a difficult year; it’s taken so long to get a mat program into place,” said Benson. “We were told they are working on it.

“Part of the problem is no one wants a shelter near them.”

Benson hopes to see a more permanent solution found soon, or at least a mat program be put into place for emergencies.

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According to B.C. law, when there is insufficient housing and shelter space for people experiencing homelessness, the city may not prohibit all of its parks and public spaces for shelter spacing.

Kelowna pastor speaks out about homeless issues
Kelowna pastor speaks out about homeless issues