Residents experiencing homelessness on Leon Avenue are unhappy about their new living situation after the city relocated them to two city parks yesterday.
According to new rules set out by the city, they are not allowed to stay the entire day and can only stay at the two sites between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.
Several people who stayed at the new camp set up by the Kelowna Curling Club, said they now have no where to go during the day to keep warm, which is worse than staying on Leon Avenue where could stay warm in their tents.
About 20 tents were set up in a ball diamond near Recreation Ave overnight after those experiencing homelessness were moved from Leon Ave on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/Wx15MgehXT
— Jen Zielinski (@Jen_zee) November 27, 2019
“It’s hard when you’re homeless. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my stuff during the day. They gave us two bags to put our stuff in but if we don’t come back for one day, then they throw it out,” said Stephen Simpson.
“I understand it’s not necessarily supposed to be their problem and it is a burden on society but homelessness isn’t something that’s going to go away and it’s not something that can just disappear.
“A lot of people don’t understand there’s reasons for homelessness. You lose family members that you can’t live without. People don’t realize the value of love and having a good family or having the things you need in life.”
Gerard Joyal with Journey Home said it’s difficult for the homeless to have to pack up everything and set it up day-after-day.
“It’s really challenging for people living without homes,” said Joyal. “This is a stop-gap, this is not a solution. I think that’s an important thing everybody needs to understand and remember that this is to alleviate some of the pressures, some of the hazards and some of the risks.”
He added that Journey Home will hopefully have their mat program available soon. He also said they’re hoping to find a permanent location for more housing.
Mark Burley, the executive director for the Downtown Kelowna Assoication, said the decision to move the encampment is a step in the right direction, but not a long-term solution.
“More than anything, we were worried about safety down there. The tents were butted up against each other. We had a fire Monday night … there was a fire in the middle of the night because someone had a heating element inside their tent. It could’ve gone to other places,” Burley said.
“So not to have them on Leon and to have tent residents in a place that’s safer for them, I think is a win situation but it’s certainly not an answer.”
He added that they anticipate homeless residents will still be seen downtown throughout the day.
“They will be going to the Kelowna Gospel Mission … people avail themselves of their services. So if anyone wants something to eat, a coffee, a shower and as normally did that when they lived on Leon, I don’t see why they might not come down and do it again.”
After dismantling the encampment on Leon Avenue the city put up no camping and no sidewalk obstruction signs along the street to make sure tents don’t reappear.
About 20 tents were set up at the ball diamond on Recreation Avenue and there were no tents set up at the Knox Mountain Park area designated for those experiencing homelessness.