UPDATED: B.C. Housing is also extending the life of the temporary shelter at 1083 Richter Street.
As the battle over an emergency shelter facility continues in the South Okanagan, the City of Kelowna has moved to allow one of the Central Okanagan’s newest temporary shelters to stay in place, for now.
“It means more people inside and nobody on the street,” said Carmen Rempel, executive director of the Kelowna Gospel Mission.
The Kelowna Gospel Mission opened the facility at Doyle Avenue and St. Paul Street in December, in a building formerly occupied by the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper.
The decision was made by B.C. Housing and the City of Kelowna, according to Rempel.
“What it means for those using the shelter is that they don’t have to leave,” said Rempel. “They don’t have to be spending the summer sleeping outside.”
While Rempel hopes the Doyle Street emergency shelter it operates will stay open longer, the Gospel Mission has been granted an extension until the end of September.
Temporary shelters, like the one on Doyle Avenue, offer assistance to those who find themselves homeless, as well as helping reduce the impact on the neighbourhoods, according to Rempel.
“What I’ve heard from talking to local business owners is actually how much they appreciate having a shelter open right on Doyle (Avenue), because they find there’s less negative interaction with people experiencing homelessness coming into their shops,” Rempel said.
“I’m glad that the neighbours are also happy about us staying open.”
B.C. Housing is also keeping the shelter at 1083 Richter Street open for another year.
“This will enable a combined 90 people to continue accessing a secure, safe, physically distanced and warm space over the coming months,” according to B.C. Housing.
“We are thankful to our partners at the Kelowna Gospel Mission and Turning Points Collaborative Society for agreeing to continue operating these spaces and providing ongoing support to shelter guests.”
It remains open despite Penticton city council denying a request from BC Housing to extend the shelter’s temporary lease for another year.
The permit was to expire on March 31, but the province stepped in and overruled city council’s decision, sparking a feud.
The City of Penticton has asked for feedback from its residents to determine if it should embark on a legal challenge against B.C. Housing, which is a branch of the B.C. government that is financially responsible for maintaining emergency shelters.
Penticton’s mayor said the legal battle to shut down the temporary shelter, which the province has vowed to engage in, could cost local taxpayers upwards of $200,000.
In Kelowna, the Doyle Avenue shelter location is slated for future development that will accommodate a downtown location of UBC Okanagan.