Kelowna homeless encampment frustrates local landowner

A property owner with land along Kelowna's Mill Creek near McCurdy Road is frustrated with a makeshift shantytown that has been erected on his land. Jules Knox reports.

An elderly property owner with land along Kelowna’s Mill Creek near McCurdy Road is frustrated with a makeshift shantytown that has been erected on his land.

Trent Auch, the son of the landowner, said he’s in a never-ending cycle: as soon as he clears the land, new shelters are put up.

“I cleaned it up yesterday,” Auch said. “They came back in within that one night and made a whole town again.”

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A web of trails zigzags from one makeshift shelter to the next in a wooded area near the creek.

Clotheslines are strung across trees. Pill bottles litter the ground. Tents are crammed with junk.

“We just don’t know where to go with this anymore. We’ve cleaned this up three times. We’re filling up 40-yard bins of garbage that these homeless people are bringing into our land,” Auch said.

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Adding to his frustration, Auch received two tickets from the city for hundreds of dollars. The violations were cited under the Good Neighbour Bylaw, for having unsightly property, and the zoning bylaw, for “permitting a use in a zone where the use is not listed as a principal or secondary use in the zone.”

However, the city will reduce the fine to a warning if property owners clean up their land, bylaw services manager David Gazley said.

“Nobody wants them to be victimized twice,” Gazley said. “Having a bunch of filth and garbage on your property is being victimized once. Having bylaw come along and give you a ticket for that is being victimized twice.

“That’s not what we’re all about, we’re about working with you and trying to clean the properties,” he added.

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The city said it is also working to find housing for the homeless through the Journey Home task force.

“The solution to all of this lies in housing. If we can house these folks and get them out of these areas, you would no longer have encampments,” Gazley said.

RCMP can be called if people are trespassing on private land, Lance Kayfish, Kelowna’s director of community safety, said.

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“But a private property owner does have a responsibility to manage their property,” he added.

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“The city does appreciate the frustration this causes business and private property owners,” Kayfish said, adding that the city is trying to work co-operatively with those affected.

“We try to give them a chance to rectify the situation,” he said. “If we see them working towards compliance, we will cancel those fines.”

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