Shutdown of Kelowna homeless tent city catches campers by surprise | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

Shutdown of Kelowna homeless tent city catches campers by surprise

The homeless tent city on Leon Avenue started to come down this morning.

Many of the homeless people camped in the Leon Avenue tent city took their eviction in stride this morning as Kelowna bylaw officers ordered them to pack up to be relocated.

While the shutdown caught many of the homeless people by surprise, they didn't appear to be shocked.

“We’re used to it,” said one camper.

Another complained they weren’t told about the move out of the downtown core until this morning, Nov. 26. Some felt more notice would have given them the chance to be better organized while others had already left for work when word came down they were getting the boot.

Still, they quietly packed up their tents and supplies in preparation for being moved.

“We want this to be positive,” Gary Baker said. “I think it will be for the best.”

Baker was one of the first of the homeless people to camp on Leon Avenue this fall and has worked to keep it as organized and well managed as possible, given the circumstances.

“Gary’s been a great help,” one of the bylaw officers said.

It was a bit chaotic but the campers were mostly cooperative.
It was a bit chaotic but the campers were mostly cooperative.

One woman did start yelling at a bylaw officer, who eventually walked away. Other campers said she’s normally loud and outspoken.

It was estimated there were 85 to 100 people camped out on Leon Avenue in sub-zero temperatures overnight.

One of the problems with the relocation, either next to the curling rink on Recreation Avenue or at the foot of Knox Mountain, is the lack of electricity that some of the homeless rely on to recharge their phones.

Another is they’re expected to pack up their tents every day then set them up in the dark after 7 p.m.

“If I have to spend three hours packing up and another three hours to set up, I can’t go to work,” Gary said.

He’s not working now, he said, because he’s looking after things on the street. He’s trying to arrange for people to stay behind looking out for people’s possessions while others are at the campgrounds at the other end to oversee the unloading.

He’s hoping the campgrounds can be fenced with only one entrance so the tents can stay up during the day while someone remains to guard them.

“We’ll work it out,” a bylaw officer told him. “It’ll take a bit of time.”

By 11 a.m. today, many were packed up and ready to move but the trucks and buses to transport them had yet to arrive. At the same time, traffic control was needed as a number of sightseers were driving by to have a look - so many that police were forced to stop traffic on Leon Avenue.

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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