Halloween nightclubbing next to homeless camp will draw a heavy police presence in Kelowna tonight | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Halloween nightclubbing next to homeless camp will draw a heavy police presence in Kelowna tonight

Campers in this homeless tent city on Leon Avenue in Kelowna plan to avoid nightclub patrons this Halloween evening.
October 31, 2019 - 5:00 PM

If Gary Baker and Derek Foreel have their way, Halloween night will be no different for the homeless on Kelowna's Leon Avenue or for nightclub patrons than on most other nights.

That is, they hope there will be a peaceful co-existence between two groups of people with drastically different backgrounds and interests.

Baker is the go-to man in the tent city that sprung up in the 200 Block of Leon Avenue over the past few weeks. Foreel is his trusted friend.

The tent city – with about 100 residents – is also in the same block as both the Sapphire and Gotham night clubs.

Tonight, Oct. 31, is College Night at Gotham as well as Bacardi Halloween at Sapphire.

Last Friday, shortly before the newly renovated Gotham nightclub reopened, police ordered the campers off the street and sidewalks because tents were on the street itself.

“They were just setting them up,” Baker told iNFOnews.ca today. “You need room to set up the poles. They were going to be moved to the sidewalk.”

It’s not expected that the campers will be forced out again but the police did pay them a visit today.

“We’ve already had the RCMP, this morning, come down and tell us that they’re going to have uniforms up and down the street, making sure there’s pretty much next to no interaction between the homeless and patrons of the nightclubs tonight,” Foreel said. “There’s supposed to be four buses (of patrons) coming down being unloaded. They (police) just want to have absolute safety amongst everybody.”

How does that sit with them?

“We’re actually glad that they will be there, that they’re willing to be there for us and for the community and for the patrons, making sure everything runs very smoothly, everyone has fun and everyone feels safe,” Foreel said, adding, “we always police ourselves.”

The two men are working to clean up the sidewalks. They’re trying to get more tents so people aren’t camped out under tarps draped over shopping carts.

They do admit there are some campers who have a difficult time following the rules they’re trying to put in place so the camp is not seen as a dangerous or offensive place.

“We follow a lot of Gary’s guidelines,” Foreel said. “In general, we all get together and agree on larger ideas.”

One of those larger ideas is to have a peaceful coexistence with the businesses that still remain on the street.

For example, Foreel said, on evenings when Sapphire is operating, they encourage people to move away from the doorway and to clean up any mess left behind.

Most nights, when the clubs are running, there are no conflicts between the patrons and the homeless, they said, although there are sometimes calls of “get a job.”

But that doesn’t just happen at night. While sitting inside the Gospel Mission early this afternoon, another man stopped by to say someone had just driven by in a big pick-up truck yelling that exact phrase: “Get a job!”

“Some of the things that have been said by the general public towards us has been very hateful, very derogatory and very biased against us,” Foreel said. “We would just like to co-exist and not have so much hate directed at us and not be labeled as drug users and junkies and no-goods.”

While some do struggle with mental health issues and addictions, many others do not. They’re just going through difficult times and need some way to get into stable housing where they can try to get their lives back on track.

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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