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‘Gateway to housing’: Kelowna’s new tiny home occupants to be pulled from shelters

Tiny homes have arrived in Kelowna, B.C., but they won’t likely be ready for occupation until early to mid-February, nearly two months later than originally projected.

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas said the electrical and water hookups should be done in the next week and is hoping people will be able to move in shortly thereafter. It will be too late for an arctic chill that put the dozens of people who live rough at risk, and at least two months later than Dyas had hoped.

“It was our intention, and I think I stood in front of you and I said that I wanted them up and operational by Dec. 15,” Dyas said.

“We were set, we were ready. We’re very close to those targets…. There were some (issues) that had to be worked through in co-ordination with BC Housing and now, as I mentioned, I’m happy to see them in place, fully operational by next week.”

The first round of occupants will be pulled from those who are living at shelter sites. Dyas said that will create some vacancies in those facilities and, in turn, reduce the number of people who are in Kelowna’s outdoor sheltering sites.

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Heidi Hartman, the associate vice-president of supportive housing and homelessness for BC Housing, said the reason for choosing people from shelter sites is that shelters are a “gateway to housing.”

“There may be folks coming directly from the encampment, but we are focusing on people who have already been in the shelter system,” Hartman said.

“Non-profits have already connected with folks and they have an accurate assessment of what people’s support needs are. So what’s exciting about the STEP Place is it’s creating an opportunity for flow. The people in the shelter will move into STEP Place, which frees up shelter beds to bring people from the encampments around Kelowna inside and get them ready for when more permanent housing options come online.”

There will also be more spaces for people to go. The two that have been announced are the Crowley Avenue contingent of tiny homes as well as the modular structure in Rutland.

Dyas said the city is eyeing another location for tiny homes in the months ahead. Where that will be, he said, remains to be seen.

Dyas also said he knows that there are concerns about these new developments but he’s confident they will be managed with the overall community in mind.

“We’re now meeting with the team that has been structured here … on a quarterly basis,” he said. “Recognizing that there are concerns in the neighbourhood, we want to do everything we can to address those concerns.”

One example Dyas cited was concerns about having a lot of material and a lot of storage items on site. He said efforts are underway to minimize that issue by creating storage in units.

“As much as we’d like to grant every wish, we’re not going to be able to grant every wish, but we’re definitely going to hear it and we’re going to do the best that we can to address it,” he said.

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