City compassionate to homeless campers
As the City of Kelowna’s Community Safety Director, I am pleased to respond to issues and questions raised in David Bond’s commentary on Tuesday about daily decampment of people living without houses in our community. (“Evicting homeless from city park a harsh solution that doesn’t fix problem”)
We agree that outdoor sheltering and daily decampment is not a solution. As a city, we work tirelessly with BC Housing and Interior Health as the provincial government ministries with the mandates to address the perpetual and high-profile issues of housing, mental health and substance-use disorder evident in our community. When they are unable to meet all needs, however, municipalities are expected to address the downstream consequences.
Through the Journey Home Strategy, ambitious objectives have been exceeded by providing more than 300 supportive housing units in the last two years in Kelowna. Despite this accomplishment, the ongoing housing crisis together with impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid crisis continue to leave a growing number of people without homes.
Consequently and unfortunately, the needs in our community continue to exceed the increased capacity of our supportive and emergency sheltering systems in Kelowna.
People living without homes have a legal right to shelter outdoors when indoor shelters are at capacity.
The city has a legal obligation to designate space where it will not prohibit overnight outdoor sheltering on public lands.
B.C. case law also recognizes the rights of the broader community to be relieved of the public health, safety and security risks invited by 24/7 encampment (i.e., tent-city). One only needs to look to Vancouver and other B.C. municipalities to see the impacts of 24/7 encampment for the neighbouring area, reactive emergency and legal services, as well as those who become entrenched living in such conditions.
The city has taken an active and balanced approach since November 2019 when more than 100 people were sheltering on Leon Avenue.
This spring, a purpose-built temporary site with input from people with lived (homelessness) experience was developed, which includes running water and toilet facilities in a space with enhanced safety, security and privacy built-in.
While enforcement personnel compassionately (not punitively) oversee daily decampment, social and health service providers are present to provide connection, assessment and support services. Earlier this month, we introduced personal belonging storage during the day, making it easier for our unhoused people to decamp daily and attend social/health services and appointments.
Reactively addressing the downstream effects of provincial housing and health issues is always more expensive than accessible supports upstream. While decampment is considerably less costly than allowing 24/7 encampment, costs continue to be downloaded onto municipalities which then impact public safety (i.e., police, bylaw and fire) budgets.
While this is true in Kelowna, as it is everywhere, the province provided a $3.2 million grant to our city to improve services and supports for people sheltering outdoors (i.e., personal storage program) and to offset the majority of operational costs for the temporary overnight sheltering site until summer 2022.
As a city, we agree more proactive health solutions are needed. Kelowna is a leader in provincewide advocacy efforts to this end. In the interim, we will continue to compassionately and consistently manage the daily situation in a way that balances the legal rights and humanitarian needs of our unhoused residents with those of the broader community.
Darren Caul, Community Safety Director, City of Kelowna
Traffic lights needed at Channel intersection
In light of Tuesday’s tragic accident at Channel Parkway and Warren, I think justification for the need of a set of traffic lights at that intersection has been proven.
I have seen numerous accidents and close calls at that particular location. It is unfortunate that it takes a death for some in authority to realize that something needs to be done.
Two other locations that are screaming for traffic lights: The intersection of Highway 97 and Highway 3A, and at the intersection of Highway 97 and Sun Oka Park. Anyone who has ever tried to turn left out of there knows what a nightmare that is, considering nobody slows to 70km/h like they're supposed to. Both of these additional intersections are tragedies waiting to happen.
To those of you in authority, time to do something. If you discover a gas leak, you don't wait for an explosion before acting. You fix the leak.
Mark Billesberger, Penticton
Canada’s green future may be under foreign control
In his column (Herald, Dec. 1), John Dorn states that Canada has an opportunity to regain control of our economy and jobs and keep profit at home by investing in the new green economy instead of giving away ownership to foreign investors.
I have an article from February 2021 that says that Canadian Power Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong tycoon Victor Li's CK Group, has agreed to buy Okanagan Wind, a wind farm 33 kilometres west of Summerland.
Okanagan Wind has agreed to sell power to BC Hydro for the next 37 years. CK Group has several projects in Canada and around the world. In the weeks and months following the appearance of that article, I did not see even one letter or article of comment in this newspaper.
Does that point to why politicians in the latter half of the 20th century were able to give away the Canadian economy? Are we going down the same road again?
Patricia Kristie, Penticton
Mentally ill need to be housed
Wednesday’s editorial on the need for more psychiatric health care spells out the complications we now have with the bulging homeless population.
The experiment to discharge the mentally ill and addicted into the community, although well intended, has failed miserably. It is an impossible dream and should be revisited as now we have a mess which can only be cleaned up with tough decision making.
Although a return to reopening psychiatric hospitals may be abhorrent to humanitarians, what other choice do we have but to continue on with the quixotic road to a sad and pathetic society?
Paul Crossley, Penticton