Legion president

A city-owned building at 555 Fuller Ave. in downtown Kelowna will function as a 40-bed homeless shelter this winter, it was announced Tuesday. Jim White, president of the Kelowna branch of the Royal Canadian Legion that’s located next door, says his group supports the initiative.

Kelowna’s newest homeless shelter is being welcomed to the neighbourhood by owners of the adjacent property.

Jim White, president of the Kelowna branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, says his organization supports BC Housing’s decision to open a 40-bed shelter inside a city-owned building at the corner of Fuller Avenue and Bertram Street.

“We’ve known unofficially that this was coming for some time and we don’t have a problem with it,” White said Tuesday morning. “We’re a community organization and we want to help the community.

“It might actually improve things in the neighbourhood because now there’s going to be more security around,” White said. “And we might be able to help out in a way, maybe make some sandwiches or something for people staying at the shelter.

“I think it’s a good use of a building that’s been empty for six or seven months,” White said. “These guys that are homeless, they’re freezing their butts off outside. Now they’ll have a warmer place to sleep at night.”

The building, at 555 Fuller Ave., is currently being renovated so it can function as a shelter. It’s expected to open soon and will close at the end of March.

“Everyone deserves a safe, secure place to call home. This project will create space for more people to come inside off the streets as we work to build urgently needed permanent supportive housing in Kelowna,” provincial Housing Minister Selina Robinson said in a release.

While the city owns the building, it has long been used by Pathways, a non-profit society that provides skills and training for people with developmental disabilities. The society has plans to build a new six-storey residence for its clients and others with special needs, with construction to start next year.

For the winter, the shelter will be operated by the John Howard Society. The homeless people chosen to live there will eventually move into a supportive housing complex on McIntosh Road in Rutland that’s expected to open next spring.

The John Howard Society will provide people at the new shelter with meals. At least two staff members will be on site around the clock.

“Now that we’re opening a temporary housing option at 555 Fuller Avenue, we can offer more opportunities for people seeking support this winter,” said Dawn Himer, the society’s executive director.