Deanna Cowens, who lives in a tent on Leon Avenue in Kelowna, joined in the demand for better conditions for Kelowna’s homeless in a press conference addressed to the city. (Photo: Mackenzie Britton - Capital News)

Advocates recognize missed opportunity following downtown Kelowna homeless outcry

The Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness is a group with members who experienced homelessness

An outcry from people experiencing homelessness on Kelowna’s Leon Avenue has prompted replies from local homelessness advocacy groups.

On Wednesday, The Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH), said it missed an opportunity to advocate for those they represent after a group of homeless people held an organized press conference the day before demanding the city take action to improve their living conditions.

“We have missed an opportunity to connect with more people and support them in advocating for their needs,” said the organization in an email.

“Working diligently in the background is no excuse for disengaging with our base. We are openly seeking an opportunity to connect with those voices on Leon and discover what we can do to help; we have established some excellent channels for dialogue with important stakeholders and we want to use them on behalf of those on Leon.”

READ MORE: ‘Homes not shelters’: Those living on Kelowna streets rally for rights

READ MORE: Kelowna homeless to demand improvements to their living conditions

On Tuesday, Surreybased advocacy group Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), held a press conference with those living rough on Leon Avenue to draw attention to their situation and set out a list of four demands for the city, including more housing options, no unlawful searches of their tents, no more “stealing” by police and electrical options for heating their tents.

Listen Chen, a spokesperson for the organization, said at the time that among the four demands, the biggest grievance was the ongoing violations of the residents’ Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Treating poor and homeless people as if they don’t have rights, as if they’re not entitled to having personal possessions and privacy, that sends a message to the public that these people are not fully human,” said Chen on Nov. 12.

Chen said her organization spent last weekend collecting signatures and speaking to residents living on Leon Avenue before narrowing down their list of demands.

Kyleen Myrah, chair for the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society, said AAD’s involvement could complicate their work with those experiencing homelessness in Kelowna.

“It’s a frustrating distraction,” said Myrah in response to AAD’s Tuesday press conference.

“We recognize that the situation on Leon Avenue is not acceptable or sustainable.

“It is more important than ever to stay the course and focus our efforts, continuing to work collaboratively towards the development of community-based solutions to our issues.”

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