Some of the residents in the area of the Super 8 Motel in West Kelowna have had enough. BC Housing has leased a portion of the motel to house the homeless. But residents are growing weary of the noise and open drug use and petitions are circulating aimed at shutting it down.

The petition targets the provincial government, the City of West Kelowna, BC Housing and the Super 8 demanding the operators find a “better location”.

40 beds have been secured at the motel by BC Housing.

When the city announced in April it would be reopening an extra shelter space for the homeless, it was expected to fill up fast.

Opening the former Branch on Royal Avenue was meant as a space for homeless people to better isolate during COVID-19. But that hasn’t been the case in Kamloops.

“I’m actually quite surprised because with many of our clients, when they get that extra money, they’re not so quick to spend it,” noted acting executive director of CMHA Kamloops Alfred Achoba. “They try to use as many services as they can, so I’m surprised there’s no huge uptick for shelter.”

Barricades have gone up at CRAB Park, a wall of pallets separating a tent city of the homeless from the road and whatever comes down it.

“The people who have left have moved back to the streets,” Fiona York, an advocate for homeless people, said. “The people here are maintaining a presence. Part of the reason the barricades are here is to provide a place for everyone here. We’re asking for housing for everyone, but also the people are here in recognition that this land is unceded territory.

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As Canada starts to slowly recover from the COVID pandemic, housing and poverty experts are worried many cities will see a jump in homelessness.

A recent study conducted by a Columbia University professor estimates that homelessness could grow by as much as 45 per cent in the United States due to a COVID-induced economic downturn. Experts in Canada say there is no guarantee the homeless population will grow as quickly here as it does in the U.S., but they have no doubt it’s going to happen.

The province of B.C. has bought the 75-room Paul’s Motor Inn on Douglas Street for about $15 million to add to its stock of temporary supportive housing for people without homes in Victoria.

It’s the second Victoria hotel B.C. has purchased this year to provide housing. Last month, it announced it had spent $18.5 million to buy the Comfort Inn and Suites at 3020 Blanshard St., which houses 93 people.

On Saturday May 30, 2020, in large red letters in the Toronto Star’s Insight section, the question is asked: “Is the time ripe for a basic income?”

Beside the headline, some supposedly provocative figures are mashed together:

“$2000 – Monthly amount of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

$151.7 billion – Total emergency spending to date including $40 billion to 8 million on CERB

$86 billion – Estimated annual cost of a basic income the last time it was looked at

$260 billion – Revised estimated deficit, $8 billion higher than last reported.”

I think what the headline and the numbers are trying to acknowledge is that, as a nation, we suddenly agreed with the idea of handing out large amounts of money to our residents who lost income because of the COVID19 crisis. We also proved that it was possible to pay out that amount of money quickly.

New supportive housing options are on the way to those experiencing homelessness in Kelowna — without need for the usual rezoning from city council.

On May 20, the province announced it is building 38 modular housing units at 1055 and 1063 Ellis Street — nearby the current city-sanctioned camp on Recreation Avenue.

“The need for safe and secure housing has never been clearer, and these new homes will give more people a place to call their own,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are working quickly and urgently with our partners to protect all British Columbians during the COVID-19 crisis, including our province’s most vulnerable – because when people have housing, it’s good for everyone in the community.”