Tension between downtown businesses and people experiencing homelessness on Kelowna’s Leon Avenue has reached a tipping point.
Businesses along the strip are fed up with the growing number of people camping on the street saying the encampment is affecting their ability to work, forcing them to consider relocating.
Earlier this week, Boyd’s Tire and Auto Service and Eco-Clean, were the first two businsses to confirm they are moving locations due to the crime, violence, and uncleanliness in the area.
Boyds Tire and Auto Service has been at its Leon Avenue location for the past seven years. The shop’s owner, Chad Abougoush, said he is relocating his store due to a decrease in overall business over the past few years, which he attributes largely to the population of people living on Leon Avenue.
“We need to provide a nice, clean, safe environment for our customers and we no longer feel like that’s available here,” he said.
Abougoush said the crime and amount of people experiencing homelessness in the area has grown exponentially year-after-year.
“(This time last year) was nowhere near close to as bad as it is now,” he said.
Abougoush said the city has failed to change its response as the encampment has grown.
“The city’s response has been the same response for the past three years,” he said.
“They have this mysterious plan that we never see any of it executed. I’m sick and tired of waiting.
“When I’m trying to work and nothing is working, I usually change my approach. They need to change what they’re doing or do something to make it better … They’re band-aiding the problem. They’re not solving it.”
Despite his efforts to reach out to city officials to discuss the rampant crime in the area, Abougoush said nothing has come of those conversations.
He attributes Boyd’s Tire’s longevity on Leon Avenue to the Downtown Kelowna Association, who he describes as his “superheroes.”
“They come in and deal with stuff that you wouldn’t dream of dealing with in your nightmares,” he said.
“They’ve really stepped up to the plate — and for no benefit of their own. They go above and beyond the call of duty. They really take care of us down here.”
RCMP have also been helpful in attempting to keep the “controlled chaos” on Leon Avenue, according to Abougoush.
In the spring, Boyd’s Tire will be moving to a new location on Clement Avenue.
“Ironically enough, it’s right beside the new police centre.”