While many of us are still warm at home, Ron Beahun’s crew is already out and about in the downtown core.
Downtown Kelowna’s on-street services team heads out every morning at 7:30 a.m. to wake up those sleeping rough in doorways, parking spaces, and alleys. They report garbage to the city’s cleanup crew, walk with those who feel unsafe, and pick up discarded needles.
But most importantly, they make sure those who have been outside all night are alright.
“For us, the correct call isn’t always the police or bylaw. We also work really closely with social services connections downtown,” Beahun said.
“It’s not always the RCMP that’s needed. Sometimes it’s someone who can assess the situation and what (state) someone is in at the time. It’s not always drugs down here. It’s also mental health issues and of course, homelessness.
“In the eyes of the public, they’re up to no good but that’s not always true.”
Beahun said as security personnel, they’re trying to make sure downtown businesses thrive and that people feel safe in the area. At the same time, he said they’re also trying to balance the fact those sheltering outside don’t have anywhere else to go.
“We do need a place for them to stay at during the day and for them to be inside. That’s the tough thing about this time of the year: they need an open warming shelter.”
Fortunately, there is some relief on the way thanks to a new partnership between B.C. Housing, The John Howard Society Okanagan & Kootenay and the City of Kelowna.
Earlier this week they announced they would establish a temporary 40-bed shelter to free up space at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and Cornerstone, howeve that won’t be until mid-December.
In the mean time, Beahun said they will continue to treat those experiencing homelessness with respect.
“Even trying to get someone out of their tent, it’s just communication. That’s how we have to work. We don’t have a civic bylaw or criminal code to follow. We have, you could say, human rights to follow,” he said.
“We treat people how we like to be treated. That’s how we work here and I think we get along with the people on the street.”