In just over 72 hours, more than 600 people have signed a West Kelowna woman’s petition to address a homeless shelter located close to residences, schools and daycares.
In May, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, B.C. Housing created 40 spaces at the Super 8 Motel in West Kelowna for vulnerable people, including homeless or those at risk of homelessness, to recover and self-isolate.
Kimberly Johann lives near the Super 8 Motel and is concerned with the shelter’s wet tents that have been set up at the motel for drug use.
“Individuals on these kinds of drugs are not lucid and they are known to be physically harmful to themselves and others,” she said. “And to place this right next to children is absurd.”
The shelter is 200 metres from Mount Boucherie Secondary School, next door to a daycare and walking distance to Const. Neil Bruce Middle and Hudson Road Elementary schools It also backs against numerous homes.
While the temporary shelter was initially supposed to be gone July 1, it has now been extended to September and Johann is concerned it will be extended further.
Johann started the petition Friday afternoon.
“I’m a mother,” she said. “I’m protecting my kids and there’s nothing that’s going to stand in my way to make them safe in their own neighbourhood."
Johann said she doesn’t have anything against homeless facilities that are necessary in the community, but wet facilities cannot be near children.
If the Super 8 was a temporary dry location for homeless individuals who were clean and needed an opportunity to self-isolate, Johann said she wouldn’t have an issue.
“To put up a wet tent here and label it a ‘come all and use here’ across the Okanagan is just completely unacceptable,” she said. Johann has talked to the City of West Kelowna regarding the shelter and was told they didn’t have control over B.C. Housing’s actions.
“I would expect that our city would stand up against this,” she said..While West Kelowna works in tandem supporting different levels of government where possible, in the case of the shelter at the Super 8 Motel, Mark Koch, West Kelowna’s director of Development Services, said they did not have a say.
“B.C. Housing did not need to seek any approvals or consent to rent hotel rooms,” said Koch. “It’s a property that’s being used in accordance with its zoning."
One of Johann’s biggest concerns is B.C. Housing putting pop-up shelters and their wet tents anywhere under any circumstance.
“I just think that we are setting a precedent in our community that this is OK, that they can do this whenever they want under any emergency response excuse that they want,” she said.
Johann is happy with the support her petition is getting in the community and hopes government will get the message.
“If they cannot have a homeless shelter without the wet tents, it needs to move,” she said. You can find the petition online at change.org/p/mayorandcouncil-westkelownacity-ca-save-our-neighbourhood-in-west-kelowna-from-bc-housing-homeless-shelter-agenda?
B.C. Housing did not immediately respond for comment.