A homeless man from West Kelowna took to the mic at a town hall meeting on Thursday night to ask where he and those in the same situation would be welcome to stay if their presence has become such an issue in the Okanagan community.
“Rent a room,” was shouted from the crowd behind him, which prompted the event’s moderator to remind the crowd about respect.
The brief exchange seemed to be the verbal climax in an ultimately unremarkable event, with the exception of the stories related by the crowd.
While the tone was pleasant and the word compassion was used repeatedly by speakers, they related some sad, a few unfortunate and several shocking experiences that have prompted them to speak up about the growing crime and vagrancy problems.
A representative from a retirement home on Brown Rd., which houses 160 people between the ages of 70 and 102, said residents and their families have expressed concern over their safety walking downtown.
“They have found drug paraphernalia on the land. We have had property defaced and stolen and they have actually watched sex acts going on while they’re having dinner out the window,” Heritage Retirement Residence marketing manager Jennifer Larose said. “We work with the vulnerable and we realize we’re surrounded by the vulnerable.”
Larose said the company is looking at installing a gate to keep their residents and employees safe.
A mother-of-three lamented about police presence in West Kelowna.
“RCMP, or a lack there-of-it,” Tina Ball said. “We are lacking in RCMP staff. We were promised two additional RCMP staff last year. We still have not received those.”
West Kelowna has increased security patrols in the Westbank neighbourhood to help mitigate issues.