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City of Kelowna cracking down on outdoor sheltering site – Okanagan

The City of Kelowna continues to take action to ensure a homeless encampment along the Okanagan Rail Trail in the downtown’s north end does not become a permanent fixture.

Bylaw officers were out in full force at the designated outdoor sheltering site Thursday, doing what’s being described as a deep clean of the area.

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”It’s now time to get things back to normal operations quite frankly, and help our community divest of some of the refuse that’s accumulated over the last little while,” said Kevin Mead, manager of bylaw services with the the City of Kelowna.

The encampment has grown significantly in recent months and now houses about 120 people, their tents and other belongings.

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The site is intended for overnight use only between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m., with a rule stating that tents must be dismantled and stored away in a storage facility on site every day.

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But in recent weeks with the camp growing, more people are using the outdoor sheltering site during the day and that has city officials concerned about the camp becoming entrenched.

“When you allow entrenchment to take place, there is a number of health safety and security concerns that develop amongst the community here. So, as much as it is uncomfortable to ensure people move out of the site, it does provide them the opportunity to go and access a myriad of other services,” Mead said.

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There are a number of factors that have contributed to an influx of people sleeping at the encampment including the closure of the Doyle Avenue shelter back in May.

A new 60-bed  shelter on Bay Avenue was supposed to open a couple of weeks ago, but is only now starting to take people in and in a very limited capacity.

Carmen Rempel, executive director of the Gospel Mission, said the labour shortage has crippled its ability to hire the staff needed to open the facility in full capacity.

Only 30 spaces are being opened for now and it’s not known when the other 30 spots will be available for those sheltering outside.

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