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Evacuated Kelowna apartment now deemed unsafe to enter

Pathways Abilities Society was able to offer limited access up until now
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Megan Beckmann (left) and Monique Saebels are trying to keep their hopes up standing outside of the new Okanagan College dorms they are temporarily housed in while evacuated from Hadgraft Wilson Place. (Brittany Webster/Capital News)

Hadgraft Wilson Place is no longer safe to enter.

The low-income apartments were evacuated under order from the Kelowna fire chief on March 31, after significant damage was found in the structure as a result of ground shifting from neighbouring construction of the University of BC Okanagan’s downtown campus.

On the week of May 15, Pathways Abilities Society and Hadgraft Wilson Place residents should have been celebrating one year since the building opened, but they instead received news that no one could enter the building for any reason. Previously, Pathways had the ability to grant access to the building.

Executive director Charisse Daley said, “The engineers have come in and said that no one can access the building until we put shoring and jacks in the parkade.”

Pathways, with support from BC Housing, has had to hire engineers of its own to assess the building on Bertram Street. “We’ve reached out to (UBC Properties Trust) to see if they’ll cover some of the costs and we have yet to hear anything.”

UBCO’s most recent statement said piling, a process of inserting slender columns into the ground to help support the load of the building, is currently underway.

READ MORE: Call for UBC Properties Trust to cease downtown Kelowna construction

The residents of Hadgraft have a little bit of stability for the next three months as they have been put up in brand new dorms at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, but residents Monique Saebels and Megan Beckmann said the move-out date of Aug. 15 is always on their minds.

“It doesn’t feel like things will get better,” Saebels said.

“If security isn’t even allowed in the building that should be yet another red flag for why they should stop construction,” Beckmann added.

Construction is continuing on the new campus development despite several structures being evacuated due to building instability.

The pair are asking the citizens of Kelowna to not forget about the them.

“Students are coming back here and we are going to have to leave. The brutal reality is that we have no options at this point,” Saebels said.

Both women explained that many of Hadgraft’s residents were on waitlists with BC Housing for years before being accepted into the building.

None of the residents have been placed back on the waitlist for housing as of yet.

“We don’t plan on giving up on the building yet,” Beckmann said.

She said it’s not just about getting home now, but also about preventing similar problems as the city continues to develop.

“This could be you next,” Saebels added. “Really think about your city council and the things that are coming through and how they’re going to affect you. In an evacuation where are you going to go?”

Hadgraft Wilson Place residents are glad to be together for the next couple of months, but come Aug. 15 they know the group could be split up again if their apartment building still can’t be occupied.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Hadgraft Wilson Place residents against UBC Properties Trust, the city of Kelowna, and other parties involved in the construction.

UBCO and the city have declined to comment on the lawsuit.

READ MORE: Evacuated residents launch class action lawsuit against UBC, City of Kelowna