Kelowna's Unsheltered Community Doubles over Summer

Stephany Mesa

The growing tent presence on Leon Avenue in Downtown Kelowna has attracted questions and concern from area residents.

Bylaw Manager David Gazley said the number of unsheltered people has significantly grown since June.

“Back in June we were doing a ‘point in time’ count of the downtown area, specifically the 200 and 400 blocks of Leon Ave. We were averaging around 22 in June and now our average is around 46 so it's completely doubled in 3 months over the summer.”

He said people gather on Leon Ave. because it is a hub for social services.

“There's food provided by the Gospel Mission and it's a little bit safer, there’s a sense of community in that area. Shelters, we really can't be taking away if there's no place for them to rest at night, with the weather they need something to sleep in,” said Gazley.

According to the City, bylaw officers work to make sure at least one sidewalk is passable at all times but it is tough during the winter when there are more homeless people than beds in Kelowna’s shelters.

Gazley told AM1150, the City is working on a plan to get vulnerable people off the streets.

“With Journey Home we're looking into some kind of winter mat program that wouldn't be necessarily be started by inclement weather. We're trying to find some kind of housing right now that would be suitable for the needs of the folks that are down there.”

Local partners are in discussion to find housing that would be suitable for those living

In the meantime, the City has no plans to remove the tents.