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City of Kelowna monitoring community garden at tent city to avoid ‘entrenchment’

A community garden is improving morale for some tent city residents in Kelowna, but the city is keeping a watchful eye to avoid “entrenchment” along the Rail Trail.

Adam Hilner is one of the people who has been tending to the garden, and he says it makes things a little nicer for those who shelter in the area.

<who>Photo credit: KelownaNow</who>Adam HIlner at the community garden along Weddell Place

“We have something to look forward to every day,” he told KelownaNow.

He added that, while the garden was under threat of being removed by the city, public appeal has kept it safe for now.

The city says they are monitoring the garden to make sure it doesn't expand. The sheltering area along Weddell Place has been growing steadily, and although bylaw has taken a kinder approach to enforcement over the last year there are concerns about entrenchment at the site.

<who>Photo Credit: KelownaNow

City spokesperson, Tom Wilson, told KelownaNow that bylaw officers work “compassionately” while enforcing the rules, and will “sometimes use discretion with the temporary outdoor shelter site users to allow personal features, like a small garden.”

However, they cannot allow the introduction of “enhanced infrastructure or more permanent features.”

“One concern is that the garden could expand, as we have been told is the plan,” said Wilson. “For health and safety reasons, the City routinely reorganizes the site for clean-up and hygiene purposes and cannot ensure in-ground gardens can be protected.”

<who>Photo Credit: KelownaNow

However, the bigger concern for the city has been that allowing a larger garden would encourage an entrenched encampment of people who may not begin the process of moving into transitional housing.

Wilson says that there are about 35 beds available right now at local shelters in Kelowna, but there are around 100 people choosing the outdoor site instead.

Hilner spoke to the conditions of those shelter spaces, and what might lead one to opt for the outdoor site instead.

<who>Photo Credit: KelownaNow

Firstly, many shelter spaces will not allow you to have a pet with you. Not only that, but according to Hilner the shelters tend to be cramped with no privacy, curfews and lots of theft.

Wilson says the City works with provincial and non-profits to provide basic amenities at Tent City, “without inviting the conditions for entrenched encampments.”

He explained that these kinds of encampments, which have become active in a number of cities over the last 10 years, have “consistently proven to present significant health, safety and security risks for the adjacent community and for those sheltering within them.”

-With files from Kent Molgat, KelownaNow

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