Kelowna’s community safety director says a tweet by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre showing the tent city along the Rail Trail is disheartening.
“Because this issue is one that cities across the province and in fact across the country are having to deal with,” said Darren Caul.
Poilievre retweeted a video showing tents along Weddell Place, next to the Rail Trail.
“That’s what makes a 50-second video so disappointing…and unfair,” Caul added.
He pointed out that the city continues to work tirelessly with BC Housing and its not-for-profit partners to find housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness.
“The unfortunate reality is that since opening that site two years ago, the number of people who are visibly sheltering outside in our community has quadrupled.”
Caul said the city also has a legal obligation to provide overnight shelter space when there are not enough beds.
There are approximately 100 people sheltering outdoors on a nightly basis at the site, and previously individuals have had to leave the area during the day.
“It is no longer feasible nor is it frankly desirable to require daily decampment,” said Caul.
Health, safety and security maintenance projects are done daily by health and social service workers, as well as RCMP and bylaw officers, to remove items that would compromise safety and security, Caul explained.
“It’s about preventing entrenched encampments, which require legal injunction and sweeping law enforcement action as we see occur in other cities.”
He pointed out that Kelowna has not had to take those steps, - other than relocating a camp from the 200 block of Leon Avenue in 2019 as it was deemed an unsafe situation.
Caul said you can visit the Weddell Place site almost anytime and see health and social workers, bylaw and RCMP officers, and community volunteers.
“I’ll make the point again that any video fails to show all of the care, control and work of not only the City of Kelowna, but community volunteers and our not-for-profit and provincial health partners that’s going on behind the scenes.”
Caul added that the video is obviously not an accurate depiction of what our community has to offer.