Dena Bairbash helped organize residents of Kelowna’s north end in efforts to petition the city to readdress the recently-moved location of Kelowna’s homeless camp near Knox Mountain. (Photo: Mackenzie Britton - Capital News)

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

Concerned residents organized Saturday morning in downtown Kelowna

The ramifications of the City of Kelowna’s decision to move the Leon Avenue homeless camp to Kelowna’s north end has concerned residents speaking out.

On Saturday morning at a restaurant in the Kelowna Innovation Centre, Knox Mountain neighbours and other residents of the north end of the city met to discuss and share their confusion over the city’s decision.

While various speakers acknowledged the difficulty when it comes to homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness, a petition was started to lobby the city to find a better place for people experiencing homelessness to live.

“We don’t have the answers, we’re just starting with our mountain,” said petition organizer Dena Bairbash.

“We’re starting to make sure that our mountain is kept safe and sound and petitioning the city allows to get us in front of council and show them that we were kind of side-swiped with how this happened and we want to make sure that they can see the numbers of people that are here and we deserve a right for transparency.”

READ MORE: Kelowna’s homeless unhappy with temporary overnight shelter situation

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

The City of Kelowna decided to move the homeless camp on Leon Avenue to two sites in the north end of the city on Nov. 25. While the Knox Mountain site hasn’t been used yet, the second site on Recreation Avenue next to the Kelowna Curling Club has hosted dozens of people experiencing homelessness and residents want assurances from the city the new sites will be temporary.

Various speakers at Saturday morning’s gathering also shared their concern and outrage that there was no warning of the sites coming to their neighbourhood.

“We care about our community,” said Bairbash.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support, I think it’s incredible that we have this many here. We had 20 people (originally) and that grew to almost 150 people. I think that its more than people just from the north end, these are people from all over Kelowna and other places. Everyone loves that mountain.”

Bairbash and the Downtown Knox Mountain Association said that Knox is a welcoming place but the city’s ill-conceived decision needs to be addressed and that both the city and the province of B.C. need to find better options to help the homeless population and keep the nearby communities safe.

“It’s not an ‘us versus them’ problem. It’s a city problem,” said one concerned speaker.

Information on the petition to the City of Kelowna can be forwarded to saveknoxmountain@yahoo.ca.

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