The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce says it feels “mislead” after the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced the Cornerstone emergency shelter will stay open until March of 2019.
The shelter opened at the end of November in the former A and B Sound building on Leon Avenue. Originally, it was scheduled to stay open until March, but weeks ago its closure was put off until May.
The chamber’s past president, Tom Dyas, says he’s not entirely surprised the closure has now been extended an entire year, but that many chamber members would like to see a new site selected.
“The current temporary shelter has brought more street crime to the area–including increased break-ins and property damage along with an increase in fear among those who work in the area,” Dyas said. “The Chamber and DKA (Downtown Kelowna Association) will continue to encourage the city and BC Housing to increase security and expand regular clean-up efforts while aggressively looking at other locations.”
Dyas added the chamber understands the need for a facility to “help those that are marginalized in our society” but that the Cornerstone shelter isn’t an appropriate long-term solution.
“First we were told that this was not an ideal site but not to worry as it was only going to be temporary and now it seems the plan is to operate year-round,” he said.
Several meetings have taken place since the shelter first opened to review the options surrounding it. Dyas claims, however, that with such a “limited timeframe” all the suggestions from the business community for alternate locations didn’t meet BC Housing’s parameters.
Dyas said the chamber and DKA will be “stepping up efforts to get guarantees from the city and BC Housing that they will take appropriate action to ensure a safe environment for those using the facility and the many employees, customers, and business operators that work in close proximity to the shelter.”
Since Cornerstone opened in November the 80 mats it provides have been fully occupied most nights.
BC Housing has said it is working with the city to find other locations for supportive housing, including a proposed project on Commerce Avenue.
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