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City of Kelowna announces new outdoor homeless sheltering site

The City of Kelowna is preparing to open a site near the Rail Trail to be a temporary outdoor sheltering site for people experiencing homelessness.

The location is near downtown on the south side of the Rail Trail, just east of its intersection with Richter Street.

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The city said it will provide portable washrooms, waste receptacles and sharps containers — for discarding needles — at the new site, which will replace the current setup at 890 Baillie Ave.

It also said the area would be monitored by security personnel and video surveillance.

“The site will be closer to services, and landscape, tree and plant features will better separate it from the Rail Trail,” the City of Kelowna said in a news release.

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“Although the site is a temporary solution, permanent features and design elements of the site will be able to remain as landscape enhancements along the Rail Trail once the temporary sheltering site is no longer needed,” the city added.

People will be allowed to shelter at the site from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.

“Daily removal of overnight shelters will occur to balance the rights of people experiencing homelessness with those of the broader community, to enable continued availability of city lands for public use as applicable, and to prevent the inherent risks to public health, safety and security that entrenched encampments present, as seen in other cities,” the city said.

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A 2015 decision by the B.C. Supreme Court made it clear that the city cannot prohibit outdoor sheltering when emergency shelters are at capacity.

“Since fall 2019, the City has chosen to designate and service a public space in a way that balances the rights and humanitarian needs of people sheltering outside with those of the neighbouring community,” said Darren Caul, the City of Kelowna’s community safety director.

The city said that by having a designated site, services like meals, sanitation, garbage collection and health and bylaw services can be focused in one area.

More than a dozen different locations were considered through the selection process, according to a news release.

The city said the site near Richter was largely chosen because it’s on city-owned land, close to services and a suitable size.

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“While every site presents challenges, this one will be an improvement compared to the existing site at 890 Baillie Avenue,” the city said.

The site is scheduled to open at the beginning of May.

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