Volunteers continue to challenge City of Kelowna in donating to homeless - InfoNews

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Volunteers continue to challenge City of Kelowna in donating to homeless

Tammie Watson (right), the interim executive director of the Central Okanagan Food Bank delivered food to the homeless camp last night, Dec. 9.
December 09, 2019 - 7:22 PM

A group calling itself “The Real Deal” is asking for donations for the homeless living in the Recreation Avenue tent site in direct contradiction to what the City of Kelowna is asking caring citizens to do.

The Real Deal is the name of a cable TV show hosted by one if the “self-proclaimed volunteer coordinators,” Lisa Redl. They also launched a Facebook Page called Love Camp Volunteers on the weekend. It is a closed group with 14 members.

In an email to media, they are calling for donations of everything from candies to tents for the campers.

The city put out a notice last week asking that donations be made to agencies that provide services and not to the camp directly as it’s contributing to a large amount of garbage being tossed away every morning.

While the volunteer group does encourage people to drop off things like soft fruit bars at the Central Okanagan Food Bank, they are also asking for peanut butter and jam sandwiches and hot soup to be taken to the campers in the evening, something the food bank isn’t providing.

“What the City was finding was people were just arriving with home-made soups and sandwiches,” Tammie Watson, the interim executive director of the food bank told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s gracious that people do that but, based on food safety and regulations, not knowing what’s in home-made goods and giving it out to people is another reason the City asked us to spearhead this. We provide food for the evening which will include ready-to-eat and ready-made things like sandwiches, pre-made salads, fruit and vegetable trays, water, milk, buns, that sort of thing.”

The idea is to provide enough food for the campers to last them overnight, Watson said. The city provides transportation to places like the Gospel Mission for breakfast each morning.

A food bank volunteer drops food off, usually between 6 and 6:30 p.m. then checks back in the morning to clean up the boxes, make sure there was enough food and everything was eaten so there is no waste.

The sandwiches and other ready made meals are courtesy of the food bank’s ongoing food recovery program with local retailers, so they don’t need those to be donated.

A notice on its website says donations of things like granola bars, packaged cheese strings, crackers, pop-top canned goods, individual sized yogurt and fresh fruit are welcome.

They cannot accept homemade food, open or partially used items or those past their expiry dates.

Watson said any suitable donations that people want directed to the camp will go there.

Donations can be dropped off at their building at 2310 Enterprise Way.

The food bank does not accept donations of clothing and bedding.

Again, when it comes to issues of donating everything from toques to tents, the volunteers and the City are in conflicting positions.

“While we are aware the City of Kelowna has issued a request to drop off items at other agencies - those items do not get to Recreation Ave.,” the volunteers’ email states. “We are the people who find bedding for those who arrive WITHOUT ANYTHING nightly. Two women needed clean & dry clothing last night - we drove to a store to buy pants & men's socks.”

The city has a different perspective.

“There is a heated large tent there where people can sleep if they don’t have their own tent,” city Communications Manager Tom Wilson said in an email. “They are given clothing, blankets, toques, mitts and hand-warmers. They are bused to Metro and/or the Gospel Mission in the morning for breakfast. If people need something, one of the visiting service agencies can help them out.”

Initially, Wilson said, the John Howard Society provided blankets so the city bought hand warmers, mitts and toques for the campers. The blanket supply ran out so the city is now buying blankets.

The volunteer group is also calling on people to help set up tents between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. and to bring coffee and help pack up tents from 8 – 10 a.m. each morning.

It’s expected that Fuller Place will start operations Monday, which will open up 40 indoor shelter beds.


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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