UPDATE: Kelowna bylaw officers videotaped dumping property of homeless population | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Kelowna bylaw officers videotaped dumping property of homeless population

A video posted to Facebook shows bylaw officers dumping the possessions of Kelowna's homeless population.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Derek Foreel
Original Publication Date December 05, 2019 - 12:13 PM

A video of bylaw officers throwing out everything from tents to bedding and tools has some people questioning the City of Kelowna’s actions but there's more to what's happening than can be explained in a brief video.

The video posted on Facebook by a Derek Foreel shows items being tossed out after space has been cleared of its overnight homeless residents.

“All of this stuff; one bin, two bin, a mat a tent, another bin with a mat and bed, people’s personal belongings … all going to the dump. Perfectly usable items,” Foreel said.

Later he shouts out, “you’re not even going through it looking for personal effects as you said you would,” to a bylaw officer.

“They just deem it all garbage. But is it? No, perfectly usable items for anyone,” he said.

Darren Caul, the City's community safety director, has seen the video and says that the clean-up of abandoned items is a necessary activity on a daily basis.

"The amount of debris and unclaimed property that is generated daily is well beyond what is management or compatible with temporary overnight shelter," Caul said.

"This is another one of the great complex challenges of people who are living without homes in our community. People who are operating from a state of scarcity, naturally and understandably collect materials and we have policies and processes in place to manage those materials."

As it stands right now the City is dealing with 800 pounds of material being left behind each day.

These materials are left for 72 hours before they're carted away.

Currently, Kelowna's homeless population has secure storage that amounts to the size of two recycling bins.

In comparison, other cities and shelters have one Rubbermaid container.

"Obviously here it’s winter and people have more materials and we’ve set aside the two bins," Caul said. "Everyone sheltering overnight understands if materials are abandoned and not claimed they will be disposed of."

Caul said he understands people are looking at the materials in the video and suggesting they should be picked through to identify anything of value but that’s not realistic for health and safety reasons.
Between that and the refuse left behind, Caul said it's best that people not drop off anything, though the community's generosity is appreciated. It would just be better to redirect those items to agencies that directly serve people who are homeless.
"We have a known entity who brings the right amount of safe and healthy food, nightly," Caul said. "Other offers of food, while well-intentioned, leads to waste and creates new challenges in terms of our ability to ensure its safety and to make sure it’s not wasted."

Since the Gospel Mission and Cornerstone have been full for months, the City allowed a tent city to grow downtown on Leon Avenue. At one point it was estimated 100 people lived there.

Last week, the City ordered them off the street and helped them move to a baseball diamond behind Kelowna Curling Club on Recreation Avenue.

They are expected to pack up their tents and belongings by 9 a.m. each day, store them on-site, then set up again after 7 p.m.

At last count, it was estimated 45 to 50 people were living there.

— This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, to include comment from the City of Kelowna.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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