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'They don't just disappear': Safety concerns prompted homeless eviction in Kelowna: RCMP

This undated file photo shows a small camp on Leon Avenue. The camp has since grown to an estimated 60 people.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

A blocked traffic lane and safety concerns prompted the evacuation of nearly 100 homeless people from Leon Avenue Friday.

Cpl. Meghan Foster with the Kelowna RCMP said officers located more than 20 tents, and 60 to 100 people, at the camp around 8 p.m. Oct. 25. The right-hand traffic lane was obstructed as a result, Foster said.

“Leon (Ave) is home to Kelowna’s nightlife and is frequented by many people attending the area on foot, or by taxi,” Foster said. “The location of these tents posed serious safety concerns to pedestrians, drivers and to the people occupying those tents.”

Derek Foreel, a man who was camping on Leon Avenue, said he and others who stay in the camp were frustrated and confused at their forced relocation.

“Right away there was mass confusion, a little anger, but everyone kept their heads about them and started packing up,” Foreel said.

He said the people living in the camp scattered across the city – some went to City Hall and others behind the old McDonald’s building.

“Despite allowances for tents in the area, our number one priority is to protect all of the citizens attending or residing in the area,” Foster said. “This priority prompted us to clear the area of the occupied tents blocking the street.”

Ezra Cipes said he believes one of the people forced to leave the Leon Avenue camp ended up spending the night on his property.

“We woke up to see a strange bike parked in our yard. Then we found drug paraphernalia by our front door. The bike and whomever apparently slept in our backyard, disappeared before we noticed that someone had cooked something on our barbecue, with charred pieces of tinfoil left on the burner. We then learned about the mass eviction on Leon (Friday) night,” Cipes said.

No damage was done to the property and nothing was stolen from the yard. Cipes said.

“Police have got to know that just because you remove someone from a street, they don’t just disappear,” Cipes said. “We called in to report what we found, to give them evidence about the effects of their choice to evict Leon had on the wider community.”

Foster said the RCMP is committed to working with those sleeping rough to maintain a safe community for everyone.

People impacted by the Leon Avenue evacuation left without incident and Leon Avenue was cleared in about an hour. No arrests were made.

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