Residents experiencing homelessness have set up camp on a baseball diamond in the city’s west end. (Jen Zielinski - Kelowna Capital News)

Leon Avenue move displaces homeless residents

The Gospel Mission’s outreach team said more people are now sleeping on the street

It has been three days since the City of Kelowna moved those living without a home on Leon Avenue to new locations in the city’s north end, but it doesn’t appear a lot of people are using the new sites.

On Tuesday, the city designated two parks to temporarily house people experiencing homelessness, but after the first night the number of people camping has dropped significantly raising questions about where they have gone.

“Our outreach case worker went by there this morning and she noticed about 11 tents, so that’s gone down considerably,” said Sonja Menyes, director of volunteers at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission.

She said they aren’t sure where people are staying, but they have noticed some people sleeping rough in doorways and different alleys throughout the downtown core. They also haven’t notice a drop in the number of people using their services, which suggests people are still around.

Tom Wilson with the City of Kelowna said there is some shelter space available at the Gospel Mission and Cornerstone, which could account for why fewer people are setting up their tents at the temporary overnight sites.

“I know outreach workers with the Gospel Mission and Interior Health are looking for these folks to make sure they’re safe and warm, and that’s continuing every night as well,” said Wilson, acknowledging that some people are sheltering in doorways around the city.

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

READ MORE: Kelowna mayor says moving homeless camps not an easy decision

Catherine Miller, who is experiencing homelessness, said she used to have a tent on Leon Avenue, but has since found a bed at the Gospel Mission. She said it has been difficult for those who weren’t lucky enough to find space at an indoor shelter, especially after the move from Leon Avenue.

“Sometimes some of them just sit down on the sidewalk because they’re tired,and someone from bylaw or someone else would come and tell them to move. So, you’re all over the town every half hour. How can you get better? You can’t get healthy because you have to move, move, move,” Miller said.

“But where are you supposed to go?”

Another resident experiencing homelessness said the situation has become more difficult since the move.

“We’re so far away from resources. It’s a long walk from Recreation Avenue to the Mission. We have to pack everything up and put it all in a C can, then take it out and set up at night again,” she said.

“We can only take our stuff out at 7 p.m. but the Mission closes at 6 p.m., so we can’t even do our laundry during the day.”

“People think we don’t try. I used to think the same but now that I am homeless, I understand how hard it is. It’s not easy moving somewhere else trying to start over again.”

READ MORE: Fundraisers clash over Kelowna homelessness issue


@twilamam
twila.amato@blackpress.ca

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