What otherwise would have been a quiet day for a coffee shop in downtown Kelowna, took a turn Thursday morning.
Customers were enjoying beverages at Bliss Bakery on Ellis Street when a man, passing by from Cawston Avenue, randomly picked up a patio chair from in front of the shop and threw it against the window.
Owner Darci Yeo said thankfully the chair bounced off the window, where a woman was sitting just behind the glass.
But he picked up the chair and tried again, showering glass everywhere as the chair sailed through the store.
It was like everyone was in shock, Yeo’s husband, Barry said.
Two customers then chased after the man.
In the seven years the shop has operated, Yeo said she’s never had anything like this happen before, but in past few weeks has seen an increase in incidents involving the harassment of employees and customers, people sleeping in the shop, and stealing small items like sugar.
A new temporary homeless shelter run by the John Howard Society, just down the road on Ellis St. opened in the past few weeks.
“It is pretty much at capacity every night and in the mornings we are getting a full-20 coming over to our drop-in centre next door,” said Laurence East, pastor with Metro Community.
Metro Community church purchased the old Central Okanagan Food Bank, which is currently being used as an emergency shelter. Previously it was being renovated to serve the needs of its membership.
Those renovations went on hold when a decision was made to use the space for a temporary shelter while temperatures dipped to sub zero levels and pre-existing shelter spaces filled up.
Crystal Russell has owned the neighbouring business Chai Babba tea for the last five years of its 10 years on Ellis Street.
She said, in a previous interview with the Capital News, when the building was used by the food bank and now, with Metro Church moving in, there have been occasional incidents with people struggling with mental health issues interacting in a negative way with customers and employees.
Their motto, however, is to “treat everyone with the same kindness you want to be treated with,” she said.
“What would help with that is some resources for when trouble arises. It’s too much to call for police in those times,” said Russell. She also said that she’d like people to be treated with dignity. The Downtown Patrol can help, but they tend to be slow.
Other than these incidents, Russell said, the neighbourhood takes care of itself and despite its increasingly urban reality has maintained a small town feel.