Kelowna homeless shelter receives extension to stay open despite some concerns

A Kelowna homeless shelter that was slated to close at the end of September will remain open for at least six more months.

B.C. Housing has granted a second extension to the Doyle Avenue Shelter at the corner of St. Paul Street and Doyle Avenue.

“It started as a winter shelter last year. It was extended. We were so happy about that so people had a place to stay during the summer,” said Carmen Rempel, executive director for the Gospel Mission, which runs the shelter.

“And then, of course, it’s winter time again, so why would we be shutting it down when it’s starting to get cold?”

Read more: Winter shelter opens in Kelowna, quickly reaches maximum capacity

The 50-bed shelter first opened in the late fall of 2020.

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It was supposed to close this past spring, but received an extension to stay open until the end of September.

B.C. Housing has now granted a second extension, allowing the shelter to stay open until March 31, 2022.

In an e-mail to Global News, B.C. Housing stated “we decided to extend the lease as Kelowna’s other shelters are at capacity. With colder temperatures approaching, closing the Doyle Ave., shelter would force its 50 guests onto the streets with nowhere else to go.”

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“This is very much needed, and if I could have a second one, I would because we cannot pack enough people in,” Rempel said.

“Even with all of our shelters that we currently have, there are still 84 people who spent the night on the street last night, so there’s still a need for more shelters in town.”

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The shelter’s extension is being met with mixed reactions by those who live and work in the area.

“I’m very happy about that,” said Doreen Gray, who lives nearby. “Because I’d like to see them off the street and I think they should have a place to sleep.”

Another area resident, who didn’t want her name used told Global news she was fine with the extension as long as security would be beefed up, adding on-site security is not always as good as it should be.

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Rempel said the shelter considers itself a good neighbour with round-the-clock security and programs to keep the area clean.

She added that most of the complaints she gets from the neighbourhood involve people who are sleeping on the streets and not in the shelter.

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“Our folks have a place for their needles, they have a place for their garbage,” Rempel said. “It’s those who are not in the shelter who are causing some of our troubles in the neighbourhood.”

Still, many people in the area would like to see more done to help clean things up.

“There’s a lot of feces and a lot of needles and you don’t feel safe, to be honest,” said Jordanna Nevison, who works in the area. “I don’t feel safe when I’m walking by myself in the evening.”

She said the area has changed so dramatically since the shelter opened in December 2020 that relocating the business she works at is now seriously being considered.

“We don’t want to be running our business on the street anymore,” Nevison said. “We’d rather move to a different street that doesn’t have these kinds of issues.”

Read more: Concerns grow among business owners near Kelowna homeless shelter

With the Doyle Avenue shelter slated for demolition next year to make room for the new downtown campus of UBC Okanagan, there are concerns things could get worse before they get better if no additional shelter space is found.

“We’re going to be in desperate need,as these 50 folks end up on out on the street — on top of the 84 that are already out there right now,” Rempel said.

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“That’s going to be a crisis level, so we really need more spaces in the city for shelter.”

B.C. Housing stated it is working closely with the City of Kelowna and stakeholders to find additional locations for shelters to accommodate those experiencing homelessness.

It currently funds 175 shelter spaces in Kelowna, but said it has exhausted all locations it owns and is looking to other stakeholders for help in providing additional shelter space.

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