A temporary homeless shelter in downtown Kelowna will remain open for two more months, possibly longer.
The Cornerstone emergency shelter, in the 400-block of Leon Avenue at the former A&B Sound building, is run by the John Howard Society which has confirmed that BC Housing has extended the funding for the 80-bed shelter by another two months until the end of May.
But now some in the business community, who attend meetings about the shelter, have told Global News that the shelter could stay open for another year.
“We have heard from BC Housing as well as Cornerstone that they are in negotiations with the landlord to possibly extend this until March of 2019,” business owner Steve Harvey said.
Business owners like Harvey, who owns Business Finders, agree that more needs to be done to support the homeless population.
“We understand there is a need for these services and we as a business community want to be part of that solution but we were told when Cornerstone would open up that it would be a temporary solution and that we need not worry that this go past the end of March,” Harvey said.
“We don’t want anybody to be suffering or obviously pass away over the cold months here in Kelowna.”
However, many business owners are concerned about increasing crime in the area.
“There is a criminal element to the situation down here, broken windows, fires being set, graffiti, drug overdoses, people being locked in their own businesses, people being locked in bathrooms and then having to call the RCMP to come get them because they are afraid for their life. This is a dangerous situation and it is a crisis now,” Harvey said.
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce told Global News it’s surprised to learn that an extension has been granted.
“Unfortunately, it appears the current temporary shelter has brought more street crime to the area and as a result, there have been increased break-ins and property damage, along with an increase in fear among those who work in the area,” chamber president Tom Dyas said.
Dyas said the chamber recognizes the need for winter shelters for the homeless but he added that housing them in one building creates safety concerns for the people who use the facility and for the general public.
“We believe a dispersed model where there are a few smaller shelters would be superior in providing a healthy environment for those seeking help and it would have less impact on the surrounding businesses,” Dyas said.
The Cornerstone shelter opened at the end of November.
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