Homeless people in Kelowna that are sleeping in a designated overnight tenting spot on Recreation Avenue are required to pack up their belongings and either take them with them or store them in an on-site shipping container for the day.
The site is open to tenters between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. daily.
“It sucks,” one homeless tenter, who said his name was Truth, said about the situation.
With temperatures dropping into the double digets overnight and wind chill factors making it feel like the minus teens, the city added a heated tent to the site to act as a warming station for those battling the cold.
“With our partners we’ve handed out blankets, toques, mitts, and hot shots in addition to that climate controlled tent,” said Darren Caul, Kelowna’s Community Safety Director. “We are doing the best we can to provide that safety for those without homes.”
Yet the people who were removed from Leon Avenue earlier this week, and are now tasked with setting up and taking down their tents every day, say it’s a burden they don’t understand.
“We still get pulled down every morning at 9 a.m. and it’s freezing cold,” Shauna Herman said while packing her things. “I don’t understand why they can’t leave us. Nobody is using this field right now.”
The city says it’s trying to balance the rights of people who can’t access shelter space with the rights of the neighbourhoods where the people are sleeping overnight.
It’s also working to find a suitable space to put a temporary cold weather shelter, though that work has been going on for months.
“From the economics of this, resources are far fewer when we provide adequate housing with supports in a preventative way up front,” Caul said. “It’s always more expensive when you’re reacting downstream in a crisis driven scenario as we are today.”
Caul likens the situation to a snowstorm that the city is reacting to with all of the resources it can, and admits the city will have to tally up the cost of those resources, once the storm has passed.