Decision to relocate Kelowna tent city was made more than a week ago | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Decision to relocate Kelowna tent city was made more than a week ago

This is the new home for the homeless campers at about 7:30 this morning.
November 27, 2019 - 11:30 AM

Very little notice was given to everyone affected by yesterday’s eviction of the Leon Avenue tent city and for good reason, a city staffer said.

"For an operation of this magnitude and this complexity you can invite problems that get in the way of the smooth transition of the operation if you don’t advise everyone at the same time," Darren Caul, the City of Kelowna’s community safety director, told iNFOnews.ca today, Nov. 27.

The decision to put an end to the growing tent city was made at a Nov. 18 in camera meeting of city council, Caul said.

Some time was needed to prepare the two sites offered to the homeless. One is in a ball park behind the Kelowna Curling Rink on Recreation Avenue and the other is at the foot of Knox Mountain.

But nothing was said to neighbours until letters were hand delivered about 9:15 a.m. yesterday. That’s about the same time as the tenters were informed, which led to at least one tent being tossed in the garbage because its owner was absent at the time.

This tent was tossed in the garbage as the tenters were leaving Leon Avenue, presumably because the owner wasn't around to claim it.
This tent was tossed in the garbage as the tenters were leaving Leon Avenue, presumably because the owner wasn't around to claim it.

The late notice also outraged neighbours in the Knox Mountain area and led to a protest at the site at 5 p.m. yesterday.

About 50 people gathered in the wind, cold and dark at the site even though no one chose to camp there.

That didn’t stop organizer Dena Barabash from being elated by the crowd that showed up for the 5 p.m. event.

Dena Barabash organized a protest against the homeless being invited to camp at the foot of Knox Mountain, even though no one chose to camp there.
Dena Barabash organized a protest against the homeless being invited to camp at the foot of Knox Mountain, even though no one chose to camp there.

“I’m surprised by how many people turned out today,” she said. “This is big.”

In the next breath, she criticized city council for making decisions without consulting the neighbourhood and for not informing anyone until the last minute. She objected to the Knox Mountain site, saying there were school children getting buses nearby and daycares in the neighbourhood.

“It should be inside,” Barabash said. “There are many places where you can put people so they have warm shelter overnight. This doesn’t make sense.”

She suggested putting a “bubble” over the Apple Bowl, churches, empty warehouses or even trailers.

There were 22 tents set up behind the curling rink this morning with plenty of room for more. The city provided washrooms, a storage trailer and two propane burning barrels for warmth.
Normally there were about 30 tents set up on Leon Avenue, Caul said.

"One of the things we hear is that not everyone who is sheltering on Leon were without alternatives," he said. "We anticipated there might be a fraction of the population who might have had better alternatives."

At 7:30 this morning there was no one camped at Knox Mountain or on Leon Avenue and no one stirring at the curling rink site – although the tenters were often up and about by that time of the morning when they were on Leon Avenue.

The new tent city settled down for the night.
The new tent city settled down for the night.
Image Credit: Submitted/Grant Stovel

This morning was the first time in about two months that there were no tents set up in the 200 block of Leon Avenue, although a few people were lined up outside the Gospel Mission and there were a couple of shopping carts with possessions parked nearby.

The campers are expected to pack up and store their tents by 9 a.m. each morning and can’t set up again until 7 p.m.

While some campers were hoping for leniency on that requirement, Caul said the City plans to enforce it, although he realizes it will take the campers some time to get used to meeting the 9 a.m. deadline.


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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