A video showing bylaw officers and city employees allegedly throwing away people’s belongings at one of the new homeless sites in the north end of the city is drawing the ire from many on social media.
The video, which was uploaded to Facebook on Dec. 4, shows bylaw officers and city workers throwing away mattresses, tents and other personal items found at the new homeless camp set up by the city at Recreation Ave two weeks ago.
“Not even caring about what is being thrown out, they just deem it all garbage, but is it? No, it’s perfectly usable items for anyone,” said Facebook user Derek Foreel.
Darren Caul, director of community safety, said it’s a difficult, but necessary task to remove the abandoned items found at the temporary site.
“People who live without homes operate from a state of scarcity and so they quite naturally and expectedly collect,” said Caul.
“The amount of material and unclaimed property generated on a daily basis is well beyond what is manageable or compatible with a temporary overnight shelter site.”
He said each person who uses the site can safely store their items in two large recycling bins on wheels, which are then stored inside a shipping container. Each bin has their name and date attached to it.
“If they are not accessed or used within three days they are deemed abandoned and disposed of,” said Caul, adding most shelters only offer to store a single rubber made bin per person.
That being said, if there are items of value, including sentimental value, those items may be stored separately and are accessible for people to retrieve within 30 days.
Due to health and safety hazards, he said bylaw staff can not go through bags that are left behind nor can abandoned items be reused by other people.
Two weeks ago the city announced it was setting up two homeless camps – one behind the Kelowna Curling Club and another at the base of Knox Mountain – to allow those experiencing homelessness a place to sleep at night.
At the new sites shelters can be set up between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. and there are washrooms, garbage disposal, sharps disposal, bottled water and daytime storage. Two security personnel also monitor the sites between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. and there is an increased presence of both bylaw officers and RCMP officers.
It’s not clear at what time the video was taken.
Earlier this week BC Housing, the John Howard Society of Okanagan and Kootenay and the City of Kelowna announced a new partnership to provide 40 beds at a city-owned property. The site will be operated by the John Howard Society and funded by the provincial government.
The building, located at 555 Fuller Ave., will temporarily house 40 people who already have beds at Cornerstone shelter and the Kelowna Gospel Mission to free up space at those two shelters for those who are currently out on the streets or camping at Recreation Avenue.
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.