B.C. Housing officials are ensuring there is no danger to the public from its use of a Super 8 Motel in West Kelowna to house the community’s most vulnerable.
The agency reiterated Tuesday in a press briefing that the 40 spaces at the motel are not a homeless shelter. Rather, a housing official said, they are temporary accommodations for vulnerable people, including those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, so they can maintain physical distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know from evidence in B.C. and internationally that communities are safer and healthier when people have housing and the supports they need,” the BC Housing response said. “As with all new supportive housing buildings, it takes some time for residents to settle into the building. It is our experience that after a few months, residents stabilize and public disturbances decrease dramatically.”
Kim Johann, who lives near the Super 8 Motel, started a petition Friday asking that those accommodations be moved elsewhere because she was concerned about onsite drug use and the proximity to three schools as well as daycares.
According to BC Housing, the province is in the middle of a health emergency and acted quickly to support vulnerable people.
Turning Points Collective Society is operating the 40 spaces at the motel, of which 29 are occupied.
BC Housing admitted that while the hotel is for vulnerable people in West Kelowna, people living in Kelowna or nearby communities may be offered space at the Super 8 if no other shelter or supportive housing options were available.
It is unknown how long the temporary accommodation will be in place as BC Housing’s agreement with the Super 8 Motel can be extended monthly. They will continue to monitor the needs of the residents and the community to determine how long the accommodations should continue to be available.
B.C. Housing called the safety of residents and the surrounding community a priority, with staff onsite 24/7 to monitor who goes in and out of the motel as well as 24/7 onsite hired private security.
Society staff are providing safe needle disposal onsite and performing daily sweeps of the area.
As well, in the coming days, the society is installing privacy fencing to minimize the visibility of a so-called health-care tent outside the building.
The provincial government is working on long-term plans for more secure housing with appropriate support for those moving from camps to safe temporary accommodations.
In addition to the West Kelowna site, B.C. Housing has also secured five sites with 135 spaces in Kelowna, four sites with 108 spaces in Vernon and five sites with 137 spaces in Penticton for vulnerable individuals to maintain physical distance during the pandemic.