Residents rally to support those experiencing homelessness in Kelowna

Supporters want the city to house the homeless before weather worsens

Several residents took to Kelowna City Hall to demostrate, once again.

This time, locals gathered to support those who are currently experiencing homelessness.

Local broadcaster Lisa Redl spoke at the rally.

“We have to find a solution right now,” Redl said. “Regardless of what the city is doing, we have to figure out how to get these people warm right now.”

Last week the City of Kelowna relocated those camping on Leon Avenue to two parks at the north-end of downtown.

According to new rules set out by the city, those camped in the new locations are not allowed to stay the entire day and can only stay at the two sites between 7 p.m. and 9 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 they could stay warm in their tents.

Redl stated that those camped at Recreation Avenue are demanding additional warming tents be brought to the area to give them a warm place to sleep.

“I get that there are regulations, but these are human beings too. These are somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter,” she said.

READ MORE: Kelowna homelessness count shows more people without shelter

READ MORE: Province plans to open shelter for West Kelowna homeless in 2020

Others attending the rally have experienced homelessness in the past and came to show their support.

“We were also homeless… and this is just inhumane. I was at the camp this morning handing out breakfast. Sometimes, it’s as easy as that,” one said.

Another mentioned how easily people can fall through the cracks and end up on the streets.

“You don’t pay your rent once and you get evicted quickly, and that’s what we’re seeing here. We’ve elected a mayor who ran on a pro-helping the homeless on a Journey Home strategy against someone who had a tough love approach. He won basically on that and we’re just not seeing action,” another resident said.

Resident Gail Hodgson said, the city should consider the issue as an emergency.

“The city has procedures for emergencies like when there’s forest fires – they open up buildings with cots, water, supplies. This is an emergency too,” Hodgson said.

“I’d like to see a building opened up to these people. They’re suffering already and I’ve had enough.”

She said she also understood how Knox Mountain neighbourhood residents would be unhappy with having those experiencing homelessness sheltering in a popular park.

“I feel sorry for them as well. If I lived there and that happened near me and I had kids, and what with some of the homeless folk having addiction and the potential dangers, I feel sorry for them too. It’s a terrible situation for everybody.”

But, she pointed out that if the city could put security measures for an outdoor camp, they can do that in an indoor setting too.

“What the city has done is put up that camp at Recreation (Avenue) and they’re manning it with security. Well, can they do that in a building?”

In all, Redl said the gathering at city hall wasn’t meant to be a protest, but a call out and a challenge for the city to act soon before weather conditions get worse.

READ MORE: Knox Mountain, north end Kelowna residents gather to petition city over homeless camp relocation

READ MORE: Knox Mountain residents hold protest over homeless camp move


@twilamam
twila.amato@blackpress.ca

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