Nearby West Kelowna residents of the Super 8 Motel being contracted by BC Housing as a temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness have not welcomed their new neighbours with open arms.
An online petition has been started to have the occupants of the hotel relocated elsewhere, which led to a meeting last week between the site managers, working for the Vernon-based Turning Points Collaborative, and some of the petition proponents.
Last week, Turning Points Collaborative invited the media to hear their point of view on the housing initiative, noting the motel houses 28 individuals at the moment, and has never had more than 30 staying there at any one time.
“We have 24/7 security on-site and we never have less than two trained community support workers on site to assist clients with supports,” said a statement from Turning Points released last Thursday.
The petition outlines some of the area residents’ concerns, including the proximity of the housing site to three schools and a daycare centre.
In their statement, Turning Points acknowledged the concerns of the residents, saying they were being taken seriously.
“We firmly believe that the first step in creating real, long-term solutions to the issues of homelessness, substance use disorders and mental health struggles is talking about these issues as a community,” said the statement.
“We hope to create an understanding. We hope to end the stigma that is associated with homelessness, mental health and substance use disorders.”
Tara Tschritter, site manager with Turning Points Collaborative Society, said the Super 8 clients are residents of West Kelowna.
“We look forward to fostering positive neighbourhood relationships and hope the community will see them for the unique humans they are,” Tschritter said.
As for those being housed in the shelter, several said they don’t want to cause stress to the community, they were just happy to not have to live on the streets.
“We don’t want to be stereotyped as being bad people for the community. We just want to be here and be part of the community,” said one client.
BC Housing also responded to the petition last week, issuing a statement that “communities are safer when people have housing. It is our experience that after a few months, residents stabilize and public disturbances decrease dramatically.”