Businesses not the only ones frightened by Cornerstone in downtown Kelowna - InfoNews

Current Conditions

Mostly Cloudy
24.5°C

Businesses not the only ones frightened by Cornerstone in downtown Kelowna

Ron Sutcliffe points to the back entrance to his home, where people frequently urinate. After originally agreeing to be photographed, he decided he did not want to be recognized by the street people who are becoming more and more aggressive downtown.
June 14, 2019 - 7:30 AM

KELOWNA - Ron Sutcliffe presents a lone voice for downtown residents crying foul over the ongoing operation of the Cornerstone Emergency Shelter.

But, when the nearby Ella high-rise condominium complex opens next spring, he expects his concerns to be greatly magnified.

Right now, there are five condominiums in the top two floors of a commercial building on the corner of Leon and Pandosy – about the only homes close to Cornerstone and the Gospel Mission.

“What about when Ella is finished and it gets populated?” Sutcliffe asked iNFOnews.ca. “There’s going to be ton of outcry.”

The 20-storey Ella condo tower is only about a block away from where Sutcliffe lives and will bring many more residential eyes downtown when it opens next year – eyes from people who bought thinking that Cornerstone was going to be closed by the time they moved into their new homes.

Instead of closing this month, as once promised, Cornerstone is staying open indefinitely.

That means more of what Sutcliffe sees on a daily basis. He contacted iNFOnews after reading an earlier story on businesses impacted by Cornerstone. He pointed out that business people are only there during the day.

“Our alley, at night, is a thoroughfare for the homeless people,” he said. “We get woken up in the middle of the night by people yelling and screaming and smashing our garbage cans. We had a couple of guys up on the top of the parkade throwing grates down at our garbage cans. The metal grates weigh about 35 pounds each. Coming down from the fifth floor of the parkade, that could kill someone walking down the alleyway.

“Our alleyway is constantly littered with needles. We have two garbage cans out there they use to defecate between. They’re constantly peeing in the air intake for our garage.”

The list goes on and on as he points to places in the back alley on the other side of Pandosy where people make overnight camps, where shrubbery has been removed to keep people from camping out and barbed wire fences ripped down.

There are only three strands of barbed wire left in front of this electrical box. People regularly squeeze in behind it to sleep at night and tore out the rest of the wire.
There are only three strands of barbed wire left in front of this electrical box. People regularly squeeze in behind it to sleep at night and tore out the rest of the wire.

There is an overpass across his alley to the Chapman Parkade where feces and needles are common. He’s seen people shooting up, others having sex and one woman nearly dying – despite security cameras that are supposed to alert the authorities.

This is the only residential building close to downtown emergency shelters. The overpass to the Chapman Parkade is frequently contaminated with feces and urine.
This is the only residential building close to downtown emergency shelters. The overpass to the Chapman Parkade is frequently contaminated with feces and urine.

Parking on the street one day, a man asked him to buy some poetry. When Sutcliffe said no, the man keyed his car.

He’s been threatened with a pipe and won’t take his dog into City Park for fear of all the needles in the grass.

“It’s become a frightening situation to live in, to say the least,” Sutcliffe said.

He bought his place in 2015, before Cornerstone opened. Yet, after numerous calls of complaint to the RCMP he had one civilian employee tell him, in his words: “Suck it up, you chose to live there, too bad.”

And yes, he chose to live there. But that was before Cornerstone opened.

A similar comment could be made about the owners at Ella, who are buying despite the fact that Cornerstone is already there. But, based on past promises that Cornerstone would be closing, Sutcliffe feels those future complainers were justified in believing what they were being told.

What Sutcliffe finds most frustrating is what appears to be the abandonment of one area of downtown to a group of people who have simply taken over the streets.

He doesn’t see the police, bylaw or security guard presence that used to be more visible.

Sutcliffe can identify many of the drug dealers in his neighbourhood, so he doesn’t understand why the police aren’t a more constant presence clamping down on that trade.

“The biggest problem is the drug users and the people with the mental health issues,” Sutcliffe said. “I almost want to group those two groups together. They’re destructive. They scare people. They use intimidation on people. They tell us they’re going to take our dogs. They tell us they’re going to smash the windows of our buildings.”

While he recognizes that not all homeless people are causing the problems, there seems to be a transient group that’s becoming increasingly aggressive and appear to believe the authorities won’t do anything to them.

“The authorities we elected to run our city - why are we allowing them to not enforce the laws of the city?”  Sutcliffe asked. “Why are we allowing these people to have free reign of the city?”

Some of the shrubs around these electrical boxes in a downtown alley were removed in order to discourage camping.
Some of the shrubs around these electrical boxes in a downtown alley were removed in order to discourage camping.

In a fit of pique, he went so far as to suggest creating a Facebook group to gather 20,000 residents together to force these people across the Bennett bridge to West Kelowna and block them from coming back.

“But, would we want to do that to our neighbours across the bridge?” he asked.

Despite his frustration, city council and others are trying to find solutions other than deportation.

“We got here over a long, long period of time,” Gaelene Askeland, Executive Director of the Journey Home Society that’s trying to reduce homelessness, told iNFOnews.ca. “All sorts of things have to happen in concert. It can’t be arrested out. You can’t just arrest people for being homeless. If we don’t have public washrooms downtown, this is what we get.”

The city put together the Journey Home task force in 2017. Council met with Interior Health representatives this week to find ways to work together and, next week, about 100 people will sit in a “design lab” to come up with better ideas for homeless shelters. These are just a few of the efforts being made to reduce homelessness.

Downtown businesses have long been frustrated with how slow the fixes are in coming.

Sutcliffe’s voice is joining those businesses. If the situation does not improve by the time Ella opens next year, he expects the downtown residents’ voices will swell into a very loud shout of frustration.

There are many surveillance cameras downtown but they seem to have little effect on people living on the streets.
There are many surveillance cameras downtown but they seem to have little effect on people living on the streets.

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.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
InfoTel News Ltd

  • Popular penticton News
  • Comments
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile