Knox Mountain area residents hold protest over homeless camp move

Residents said they were frustrated with the last minute notice

Residents living near Knox Mountain gathered on Tuesday night to express their opposition to a new camp for people experiencing homelessness that was approved by the city earlier in the day.

Residents said they are worried the camp, which is one of two locations approved by the city, will bring drugs and crime into their neighbourhood.

Others said they were frustrated they were only informed about the camp at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

“I would’ve liked to have a bit of warning to install security lights or security cameras,” said resident Tess Rose. “The fact that we were given no heads up really disappoints me. I’m really disappointed in city council and whoever made the decision.”

She said her neighbourhood is traditionally a safe area with fairly low levels of crime.

“We have had a bit of an uptick in recent years,” said Rose. “I know I’ve had a couple of run ins with people in the last little bit and I think the crime rate is just going to probably increase. I walk my dog around the neighbourhood at night, and I don’t think I’m going to be comfortable doing that.”

READ MORE: Tent city on Leon Avenue moved to north Kelowna

READ MORE: Kelowna businesses fleeing Leon Avenue due to tent city

Other residents echoed her concerns.

“It feels like we’re not as safe as we were,” said Isla Matson, a middle schooler.

Jodi Huber said her first concern was her daughter’s safety.

“She walks back and forth from the school bus at 7:45 in the morning and she returns at about 3:15 p.m. Now I’m trying to figure out how I can adapt my life to pick her up because I certainly don’t feel safe having her walk by herself once this actually gets filled up with tents,” said Huber.

Francois Lacelle said while he’s concerned about the situation like everyone else, he’s not sure what exactly there is to protest.

“If we protest about people moving here and they move to another neighbourhood, then the next neighbourhood will do the same thing. It just doesn’t seem like a solution to me,” he said.

“I’m definitely a little bit concerned as a resident and I hope we find a solution for these people. At the same time, we have to be mindful of the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude. I hope a solution comes up soon.”

Earlier in the day, the City of Kelowna designated two sites for temporary overnight sheltering: one at the base of Knox Mountain Park and another one near the Kelowna Curling Club.

Both areas are expected to house residents who have been living rough on Leon Avenue, which was deemed “too hazardous” by the city’s fire department.

“Our primary concern with the current use of tents for overnight sheltering on Leon is safety-related,” said Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting. “Specifically, the close grouping of the tents due to the rapid and surprising growth of people sheltering outside and highly combustible materials, and the observed use of unsafe heaters creating fire or carbon monoxide risk to the residents.”

According to the city, those experiencing homelessness will be able to set up their shelters between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. and there will be washrooms, garbage disposal, sharps disposal, bottled water and daytime storage. Two security personnel will also monitor the sites between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. and there will be an increased presence of both bylaw officers and RCMP officers.

B.C. law requires that in times of insufficient shelter and housing space for those experiencing homelessness, municipalities may not prohibit all of its parks and public spaces from being used for temporary overnight shelter. Municipalities can, however, designate which parks are used as such.

“Overnight sheltering in public spaces is not the long-term solution,” said community safety director Darren Caul. “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.

“The properties were selected based on a number of factors that considered the current use, amenities and programming at the site, the accessibility of the site not only for the people sheltering there, but also for emergency services, and the distance to services in the core of the city,” said Caul.

In a press release, the city stated it recognized the response to the rapid growth of those requiring outdoor shelter is not ideal for anyone, however, it was determined the sites balanced the rights of people sheltering outside with people impacted in neighbouring areas and the broader community.

Residents who want more information about the overnight shelters can visit kelowna.ca/homelessness or call 250-862-0440.


@twilamam
twila.amato@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Police and bylaw officers helped to dismantle tents on Leon Avenue early Tuesday morning before helping them move to two new locations in the north end of the city. (Twilai Amato - Kelowna Capital News)

Just Posted

COLUMN: Choosing a face to show the world

It will not be easy to select the face to display on Canada’s new $5 bill

Summerland Steam lose twice in Junior B hockey action

Next action for Junior B hockey team is on Friday, Jan. 17 in Summerland

Summerland drama students to stage Matilda

Story by Roald Dahl will be presented at Centre Stage Theatre in February

Petition to install safety barriers on Hwy 97 garners over 500 supporters

Yesterday a fatal collision on Hwy 97 claimed the life of one individual

Scholarship receives funds from KIJHL

Launched in September, the scholarship is available to all KIJHL players

Older Canadians highlighted in Kelowna film project to fight ageism

The project is part of a campaign to combat ageism

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Princeton – a Prince Town in waiting?

The Town of Princeton has been waiting 160 years for a Royal… Continue reading

Group builds shelters for Vernon’s stray cats

Twenty insulated cat shelters were constructed by volunteers and delivered around town

UBCO partners with Boeing to test new anti-ice coating technology

The coating could one day be applied to all airplanes to prevent ice buildup

Revelstoke already double last year’s snowfall

The city is just below halfway to the snowiest winter on record

True Stories: Okanagan memoir-writers, reading

Reading with local North Okanagan writers Art Dalton, Patti Shales Lefkos, Raven Dahl, Janelle Hardy

Kelowna’s last video store, Leo’s Videos, to remain open despite failed sale

Kelowna’s last video rental store will remain open and under its namesake’s ownership

Most Read