Kelowna residents to rally against new tent city moving into the neighbourhood - InfoNews

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Kelowna residents to rally against new tent city moving into the neighbourhood

This no camping sign is right next to the site of a new homeless camp to be set up at the foot of Knox Mountain Park in Kelowna, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.
November 26, 2019 - 3:07 PM

Dena Barabash isn’t going to wait around and see how things pan out with the homeless population moving into her neighbourhood.

Within hours of getting notice that residents from Leon Avenue's tent city were being relocated to Poplar Point Road, she’d already reached out to her neighbours and asked them to meet at the base of Knox Mountain to make their case known.

At 5 p.m. today, Nov. 26, she wants them to raise their voice in unison and sway the powers that be from their current course.

“They’ve met their match with this particular situation,” Barabash, who lives just a block away from the new camp, said.

“I am all for helping, but this is not helping the people from Leon Avenue —  it’s not helping anyone — it’s creating a bigger problem than what they have. I am sure they are scared to move and we’re scared of them. Nothing is solved by this.”

Barabash said she suspected something like this was going to happen when, in recent weeks, an asphalt pad was poured, electrical infrastructure was put in place and a temporary trailer was erected. She suspected low-density emergency housing may be moved into the neighbourhood.

READ MORE: These Leon Avenue businesses were leaving long before tent city moved in

“I didn’t assume they would be loading up trailers and plunking down tents 25 feet from a school bus stop,” she said, adding the school district hadn’t been contacted about the potential conflict when she reached out to them.

Now, she said, when her daughter comes home from school she’s going to be dropped off in front of “armageddon”.

It would have been better, Barabash said, if the City could have told her before school that this was going to happen.

“It shows a lack of concern or caring about what taxpayers in the area will have a right to say,” she said. “We haven’t had time to put anything in place.”

Cara Christiansen lives nearby in a city-owned rental house that has a broken fence that the city has yet to repair.

"I'm concerned for the safety of the people living here," she told iNFOnews.ca.

She's also concerned about the lack of facilities for the campers in terms of food and other services and questioned how suitable it was with a cold wind blowing off Okanagan Lake that the campers will only have two propane-powered heating barrels for warmth.

Other nearby residents were upset about the lack of consultation and existing problems in the neighbourhood with thefts and drug houses. Others were concerned about potential fires spreading up Knox Mountain.

"I think they should have reached out to the neighbourhood association," Amanda Poon, president of the Kelowna Downtown Knox Mountain Neighbourhood Association said. "I definitely feel there seems to be a diminishing sense that they need to consult with neighbourhood associations."

She said the association will have a more formal response after tonight's rally.

Barabash is also concerned about how it reflects on the city's priorities.

Among other things, now the street entrenched population will have to trundle down Ellis every morning and night in the cold of the day to access services.

“If these kinds of decisions are being made in a nonchalant way and we’re not being made aware, then what’s next?” she said. “We should be more concerned about the people running our city than the people living in the tents in our city.”

Along with the section at the base of Knox Mountain Park near Poplar Point Road, the City has also set aside a park off Recreation Avenue near the Kelowna Curling Club to allow people to camp overnight.

People were allowed to set up tents after 1 p.m. today but going forward they won't be able to set up tents at the two locations until 7 p.m.

“Overnight sheltering in public spaces is not the long-term solution,” community safety director Darren Caul said in a media release. “Through the Journey Home Strategy, the City will continue to advocate for the provincial government and community groups to provide additional supportive and scattered housing to eliminate the need for people to shelter outdoors.”

According to the release, the law in B.C. doesn’t allow cities to ban camping in all public spaces if there are not enough temporary overnight beds but it can designate specific places for camping and prohibit it elsewhere.

Two security staff will monitor the campsites daily between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. while bylaw and police officers will increase patrols in the neighbourhoods.

Washrooms, garbage disposal, sharps disposal, bottled water and daytime storage will be provided at the two locations.


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