As one sanctioned homeless camp in Kelowna shrinks, the other is no longer empty | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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As one sanctioned homeless camp in Kelowna shrinks, the other is no longer empty

Dena Barabash took this photo of a shopping cart and plastic bags on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, at the foot of Knox Mountain where some homeless people have started camping overnight in a City sanctioned area. The items in the grocery cart and the plastic bags may be someone's possessions.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Dena Barabash
December 18, 2019 - 4:12 PM

Just as shelter spaces are opening for Kelowna’s homeless population and the Recreation Avenue tent camp is shrinking, tents are being put up at the foot of Knox Mountain.

On Nov. 26, the City evicted about 100 people from camping on Leon Avenue in the downtown core and offered two alternate sites. No one chose to go to the Knox Mountain site so a container for storage and the port-a-potties were removed.

On Saturday, two tents were set up, Dena Barabash who lives in the area told today, Dec. 18. By last night there were four. While they packed up their tents each morning, as required, they left behind bags of garbage.

On Dec. 6 she delivered a 200-name petition to City Hall asking that Knox Mountain be taken off the list of potential camping sites.

“It doesn’t make sense why they didn’t decommission that park and keep everyone at Recreation Avenue until the indoor facilities became available,” Barabash said today. “No one seems to care from (city) council. They don’t realize what this can possibly do to our park. I don’t get it. There are kids and dogs. You’ve taken that away from everyone because there’s safety issues now.’

With bags of garbage left behind, she’s worried about loose dogs, wild animals or children getting into it.

“That garbage is unattended right now with anything and everything in it,” she said. “No one is taking accountability for the bad choices (of campsite locations), especially Knox Mountain.”

She and other neighbours bought security cameras that are recording videos of people they believe to be the campers moving through their back alleys.

If the City refuses to ban camping from the site, she wants them to, at least, put in 24-hour a day security and haul garbage away, like they do at Recreation Avenue.

She, and others, plan to be down at the site tonight and will demand that the City provide security.

“Over the last six nights, there has been three to five people sheltering outside at the site, as is their legal right and consistent with the City’s legal obligations,” Darren Caul, the City’s public safety director, told in an email. “The people have been respectful and compliant with the requirements, particularly relating to the hours of set-up/take-down."

The City is adding one portable toilet but is sticking to its guns that this be designated as an authorized camping spot for the homeless until there are enough shelter beds for everyone.

Bylaw and RCMP patrols have also been enhanced, Caul said.

Shelter beds started filling up at Fuller Place on Monday and campers at Recreation Avenue are starting to move into shelters spaces that are opening up.

It’s not clear if the Knox Mountain campers are relocating from Recreation Avenue or elsewhere.

— The cutline on the photo in this story was corrected at 10:55 a.m. Dec. 19, 2019, to clarify that the possessions in the grocery cart and plastic bags may be possessions and not garbage as originally stated.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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