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May 23, 2019

Chamber says many unanswered questions remain following announcement that temporary downtown no-barrier shelter to stay open indefinitely

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce will be seeking answers from BC Housing and others following last Friday’s announcement that for the fourth time the temporary shelter known as Cornerstone will be staying open longer than had been previously promised.  Among those questions is just how long “indefinite” is expected to be.

Businesses in the area of the shelter have been told numerous times that this was only going to be a temporary situation, but each deadline over the last two and a half years has come and gone.  The latest announcement was made last Friday before the long weekend but despite the lengthy release many questions remain.

“The Chamber and the business community have long accepted the need for shelters and understand why such facilities are essential especially given the fact that many would be forced to sleep outside if they didn’t have the shelter,” says Nikki Csek, Chamber President. “The concern with Cornerstone is its close proximity to the Gospel Mission, its large number of clients, and the fact that open drug use is permitted in the facility.” 

The Chamber is also calling on BC Housing and the partners involved in the project to meet with individual business and property owners in the area to reassure them that safety measures are being put in place and their staff and customers have little to be concerned about.  The Chamber will also seek input from businesses near the shelter to better understand their concerns given the most recent announcement.

“The Chamber only has a small portion of its membership in the downtown area but we do understand the frustration with the current situation as many businesses have been hit with vandalism over the last number of months and costs associated with safety measures have led to increased levies and tax hikes.”

The Chamber is also seeking the media’s help in getting answers to the questions that are lingering in the community including how much has been spent on keeping the current shelter open to date; how long has the lease with the current landowner been extended for and at what price; and is Cornerstone expected to reduce its number of clients over time as other facilities open?

“We are pleased with a renewed commitment from the City to engage businesses in the downtown on an ongoing basis while Cornerstone is phased out and are also pleased that our efforts to reach out to BC Housing officials have led to a commitment from CEO Shayne Ramsay to come to Kelowna in July to speak at our monthly luncheon series,” says Csek. “We expect Mr. Ramsay will discuss BC Housing’s current efforts to expand non-market housing in Kelowna and elsewhere. “