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Penticton church prepared to shelter homeless if COVID-19 outbreak occurs

Province has no plans to issue deadline for vacating Kelowna homeless camp
After the province set a deadline for homeless camps in Vancouver and Victoria to be vacated amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no plan to make a similar order for the Recreation Avenue camp in Kelowna.

B.C.’s housing agency continues to mobilize temporary sites in the province’s southern interior to house the region’s most vulnerable citizens if a COVID-19 outbreak were to occur.

Eighty beds are being assembled at the Old Victory Church in Penticton for people experiencing homelessness to self-isolate.

A total of five sites with 137 spaces have been identified in Penticton. The temporary accommodations are not only for symptomatic people to recover and self-isolate, but also those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk for contracting COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Kelowna’s Gospel Mission expands outreach program to help homeless amid pandemic

“At this time, there is no need to activate such a facility but supplies have been delivered to the site in the event we need to support people there,” said spokesperson Samantha Cacnio.

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“BC Housing and its partners are continuing to look at a number of ways to bring people inside and options continue to evolve along with the needs of the community,” she said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Kelowna’s homeless services change due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic

As of April 23, BC Housing has procured nearly 2,750 spaces across the province, including hotels, motels and community centres.

The 29 sites, accounting for 679 spaces, in the Interior region include:

  • Cranbrook: two sites, 37 spaces
  • Kamloops: four sites, 110 spaces
    • includes 50 beds at Memorial Arena
  • Kelowna: four sites, 120 spaces
    • includes 40 beds at Kelowna Curling Club
  • Nelson: four sites, 63 spaces
    • includes eight beds at Kalein Hospice Centre
  • Penticton: five sites, 137 spaces
    • includes 80 beds at Victory Church of Penticton
  • Revelstoke: two sites, 12 spaces
  • Salmon Arm: two sites, 63 spaces
    • includes 58 spaces at McGuire Lake Park
  • Trail: one site, three spaces
  • Vernon: four sites, 114 spaces
    • includes 70 beds at Vernon Curling Club
  • West Kelowna: one site, 20 spaces

There has not been a known outbreak of COVID-19 among the Okanagan’s homeless population as of Sunday. Across the Interior Health region, 175 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

Four people remain in hospital, including one patient in the ICU, while 148 people have fully recovered, according to B.C.’s COVID-19 dashboard. 

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Province unveils plan to shelter tent city residents in Vancouver and Victoria
Province unveils plan to shelter tent city residents in Vancouver and Victoria

Unlike in Vancouver and Victoria, BC Housing has indicated Kelowna’s homeless encampment on Recreation Avenue will not be dismantled.

The provincial government is working with the cities of Vancouver and Victoria to transition people living in encampments in Oppenheimer Park, Topaz Park and on Pandora Avenue into temporary accommodations with wraparound supports due to the COVID-19 and overdose crises.

READ MORE: Province has no plans to issue deadline for vacating Kelowna homeless camp

The order was made under the Emergency Program Act during the provincial state of emergency. The order sets May 9 as the deadline to transition people out of those encampments.

A similar order and deadline has not been issued in the Okanagan. Officials have set up a hygiene centre in Kelowna at the former Welcome Inn shelter to offer sanitation services.

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