Some of Kelowna’s homeless are not buying into efforts from outside agitators | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Some of Kelowna’s homeless are not buying into efforts from outside agitators

Bronzon Paul is one of the homeless on Leon Avenue in Kelowna who would welcome a winter shelter bed.
November 15, 2019 - 7:00 PM


When the Alliance Against Displacement held a press conference and rally in Kelowna on Tuesday, the media likely outnumbered the residents of the Leon Avenue tent city who attended.

Most of those who live on the street were either in their tents or took a pass on the event.

When visiting the street yesterday, Nov. 14, found the few residents willing to talk to the media not at all keen on what the Alliance was trying to do.

“It’s just another gong show to make stuff happen,” Bronzon Paul said. “It’s just another publicity stunt. We just need somewhere warm to sleep for the night.”

“They’re just trying to start a fucking riot,” Joey, who didn’t give a last name, said. “They want us to fight the bylaws and the police. That’s not what we’re trying to do here.”

What the homeless are trying to do on Leon Avenue and how they want to solve their housing problems, varies according to each person’s personal history.

The Alliance Against Displacement, a group from the Lower Mainland, met with some of the campers last week and helped them draft a petition that included the suggestion that someone buy a hotel for lodging, decried government attempts at supportive housing as well as winter shelter mat programs and decried police and bylaw efforts to bring some order to the area. 

“That’s why we kept saying there are no options,” Listen Chen, who led the press conference for the Alliance, said. “Shelters are not homes and they’re not even considered adequate.”

Later in the press conference, when asked how Kelowna is different from other cities, she said that Kelowna seems to be building supportive housing.

“Which is why we’re really hammering on the point that supportive housing is not adequate housing. It’s a shelter, it’s not a home.”

The City of Kelowna and B.C. Housing are trying to set up winter emergency shelters and the government is building supportive housing.

Many of those that talked to, like Paul, would welcome a warm, dry place to sleep while he learns a few lessons – like not repeating a 20-day drug-taking marathon that ended with him freaking out and getting banned from the Gospel Mission before being sent to the hospital – and improves his life.

The Alliance members who came to Kelowna discouraged people from accepting such shelter and lobbied for affordable housing instead, or even for someone to buy a hotel where they could live.

For many people on the street, however, a winter shelter would be welcome.

“I would go into a shelter,” Rick, who also would not give his last name, said. “I’m tired and I’m cold.”

Rick said he ran a business in Kelowna for 10 years, contributing to the community. Then he got evicted because his landlord wanted to convert to an Airbnb suite, lost some of his possessions and ended up on the street with only a disability pension.

So, a warm bed at night is something to look forward to.

“A good half of them (Leon Avenue residents) would go in,” he estimated. “But a quarter are bad apples.”

Joey said he’s done too much time in federal prison to want to live in close quarters in a shelter. He, too, is on a disability pension but is working with others to try to get a place to rent that they can share in order to be able to afford to live there. While he doesn’t have a former landlord to give him a reference, he knows a police officer who, he said, will do that for him.

These are troubled people, some with drug problems and bad histories. They rail against the staff at the Gospel Mission for kicking people out at the slightest misbehaviour. But one said he was banned for life after punching out one of the workers.

Rick is also an ex-convict who said it’s hard not to get depressed and get mixed up with some of the bad characters on the street.

But, many are trying.

Paul, for example, goes to a local hire hall to get day work when he can, even though, yesterday, he was sitting on a plastic crate on the Leon Avenue sidewalk sipping a beer.

Brendon and Caitlyn Jeffrey, who spoke at the Alliance rally in favour of affordable housing, also talked about working temporary day jobs as they tried to get enough money together for a damage deposit.

There’s still no word on when, or if, a winter shelter is going to open. An announcement had been expected earlier this month.

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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