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Tiny home residents in Kelowna hopeful for future

Kirk is a regular at the downtown Kelowna bottle depot.

The 52-year-old spends every morning picking up empties.

“I have six or seven routes that I have, that I go on. I do it six days a week,” said Kirk, who didn’t want to use his last name.

“I’m climbing in and out of dumpsters, picking through the garbage, getting the empties. It’s not a clean job, that’s for sure”

Kirk claims he’s a former roofer and that he’s been homeless for more than five years after his drug use got out of hand.

“I got too far into the heroin,” he told Global News.

But this past winter, Kirk was selected to live in one of the 60 tiny homes at what’s called Step Place in Kelowna’s north end.

The site opened at the end of February, across from the outdoor sheltering site that’s commonly known as tent city.

Kirk says he feels comfortable having a roof over his head.

“I don’t have to worry about being cold anymore, my stuff doesn’t get stolen anymore,” he said.

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“I’m not kept up at night anymore by people yelling and screaming at tent city down along the bike path.”

The site provides washroom facilities, a communal kitchen and help accessing social services.

On top of feeling a lot safer, Kirk said living in a tiny home is also helping him reduce his drug use.

“I’m slowly getting off fentanyl,” Kirk said. “Before I went into the tiny homes, I was doing anywhere from an eight-ball to a quarter ounce a day. Now I’m down to maybe a gram every second day.”

Ryan Romaniuk also lives in a tiny home and hopes it lives up to its name, Step Place — a step to a better place in life.

“To help me get re-established, I guess, and then, yeah, be able to afford rent on my own,” Romaniuk said. “It’s a step in that process.”

In addition to the tiny homes at Step Place, 60 modular housing units are very close to being completed along Highway 97 near Leathead Road.

The City of Kelowna said it will be announcing a third location in the coming months that will see more tiny homes erected.

“I think they should build enough for everybody that is homeless here in town and Westbank and Vernon and Kamloops, everywhere,” Kirk said. “I think anybody that has a chance to get into them, should jump at it”

Kirk is grateful he did, and he has high hopes it will give him a leg up to get back into the workforce and eventually a more permanent housing situation.

“I’m positive, it’s going to work for me,” Kirk said.

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