Kelowna is looking at introducing a $200,000 pop-up toilet project to serve citizens and tourists in the Queensway area. (City of Kelowna)

Kelowna pop-up toilet rings in at $200K

City council to consider 3-month pilot project for public washroom to serve Queensway

When nature calls, a new $200,000 washroom pilot project in Queensway could be the answer.

It could also be the answer to another call: breaking down stigma surrounding vulnerable populations experiencing homelessness and substance use.

On Monday, City of Kelowna councillors will look at funding the purchase, operations and management of the pop-up toilet.

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The semi-permanent, fully-functioning washroom, similar to projects in Winnipeg, would be added to the downtown area of Queensway for a three-month pilot project to serve all visitors of the area. The Paid Employment for People with Lived Experiences (PEOPLE) staff will be onsite to supervise between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily.

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The PEOPLE program provides training and paid work opportunities for individuals with lived experience with homelessness and substance use. Those hired for the job will fill the roles of ambassadors and cleaning crews.

Journey Home’s executive director Gaelene Askeland said this addition would also be a great advancement in the five-year strategy to end homelessness.

“While we work that plan, there are still people outside, homeless in our community, without access to toilets and showers,” she said in her letter of support.

“Few, if any, of the businesses in the downtown core permit their washrooms to be used by our street entrenched population,” she wrote. “That leave people who sleep outside without any place to deal with their bodily functions or get cleaned up for the day.”

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The Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness advisory group told Journey Home this access to a basic human need would be much appreciated by all who would use it.

“With the increase of people downtown during the summer tourist season, it is worthwhile to make the washroom facility appealing, clean, funky and a safe, easy thing to access for citizens and tourists alike,” Askeland said.

Staffing the bathroom with graduates from the PEOPLE program, Askeland said, could be helpful to break down stigma as it would create opportunities for engagement with people with lived experience of homelessness and substance use or addictions.

“It is a courageous step, and one worth taking,” she said.


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Caitlin.clow@kelownacapnews.com

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