Mamas for Mamas is shining a light on the dark spots of Kelowna’s community by highlighting the anti-homelessness architecture, otherwise known as hostile designs, located throughout the city.
“Anti-houselessness(sic) architecture works to eliminate the few comforts an individual living on the street may have,” said the charity in a social media post that sparked community discussion.
Hostile designs seen in Kelowna include curved and sloped benches and armrests in the middle of benches, preventing people from laying down on them and gathering in certain areas of the city.
“We should be thinking of how we can help, not how we can hinder,” said founder and national director of Mamas for Mamas, Shannon Christensen.
She explained that stripping people of the comfort of using a bench and forcing people experiencing unsheltered homelessness to sleep on the ground reduces their dignity and adds “insult to injury.”
Mamas for Mamas is based in Kelowna and works to help families and keep youth from slipping through the supports in society.
However, she said, “if people do fall through the cracks, they should at least have a bench to sleep on.”
Christensen explained that homelessness is a symptom of a much larger issue of a lack of affordable housing and social support.
“The problem is not with the person, it is with the system.”
She said that the government needs to follow the lead of organizations across B.C., like Mamas for Mamas, that are taking action to intervene and help people experiencing homelessness and work to prevent the loss of shelter.
“We need to run pilot projects, not more comities.”
Despite the lack of government action, Christensen said that she commends the work being done by not-for-profits and charities in the Okanagan to help keep people supported and sheltered.
Since the pandemic began, Mamas has seen a 250 per-cent increase in rental subsidy requests in Kelowna, a trend that Christensen said is being observed across the country.
“It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”