Homelessness in Kelowna has tripled since last year and additional resources are required, said Kevin Mead, Manager of Bylaw Services.
Attention has been drawn to the rapidly expanding city-maintained encampment along the Rail Trail, off Richter Street.
On Oct. 20, the weekly cleaning of ‘Tent City’ required the use of a backhoe, a dump truck, and approximately 20 RCMP and bylaw officers.
Each morning at 9 a.m. residents of the encampment are required to pack up their belongings and vacate the site. On Thursdays the site is grated and the gravel is raked clean.
Mead told Black Press Media that he has seen a “dramatic increase” in the number of people experiencing un-sheltered homelessness across the city, for reasons that are “beyond the municipality’s control.”
Carmen Rempel, executive director of Kelowna’s Gospel Mission said that “homelessness is a symptom of many different societal issues,” including trauma, substance use and poverty that needs to be addressed on a national, provincial and municipal level.
To help the un-housed, a new shelter has been opened on Bay Avenue, but due to a staffing shortage it is only able to operate at half capacity.
Rempel, said that the new shelter has the ability to house 60 people and hopes that it will be fully operational before the snow falls.
She explained that shelter is the first step to help people out of homelessness.
Rempel said that the city has an acute need for more shelter and housing options.
“It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap, but it is simple,” said Rempel.