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Drugs, mental health issues are underlying factors for Leon Avenue homelessness: Kelowna RCMP

Cleaning up Leon
Cleaning up after the homeless on Leon avenue in Kelowna,

Kelowna RCMP and City of Kelowna bylaw officers were cleaning up lower Leon Avenue on Wednesday morning.

It wasn’t, however, a big crackdown on Leon’s tent city.

Rather, it’s a regular occurrence.

Sgt. Greg Woodcox on homelessness on Leon Ave.
Sgt. Greg Woodcox on homelessness on Leon Ave.

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Global News spoke to one homeless man, Tom, who said the street cleaning happens every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, adding “and if there  is a function like [last weekend’s Okanagan Marathon], it’s on the weekend as well.”

Those living on Leon Avenue, like Tom, know the drill.

Asked if officials are trying to break up the homeless encampment, Tom said “yeah, maybe you know, give us an incentive, get the heck out of here.”

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The regular cleaning of Leon is yet another exhibit in a long list of evidence of just how bad the homeless situation in Kelowna has become.

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Kelowna RCMP Sgt. Greg Woodcox was on scene Wednesday, noting “the problem is we just did this on Monday,” adding “it’s a vicious cycle of the same thing, every day.”

The real and bigger problem is that homelessness won’t be swept away anytime soon.

“Underneath the tents, all day just so you know, people are doing methamphetamines and smoking heroin,” said Woodcox, who sees it first-hand and says he feels for those who live on Leon.

“Because I open the tents every day and check on people, so that’s what’s going on down here.”

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Woodcox is the head of the Kelowna RCMP’s community safety unit, and he points to the lack of viable rehab facilities as the No. 1 cause for what’s happening on Leon Avenue.

“Frankly, the only type of rehab that I see lately is jail,” said Woodcox, adding he says programs are needed to “get people places to reside at night, (so) at least we can have an opportunity to clean the streets up and keep it in a fashion that everybody can access the street.

“Otherwise this is going to continue.”

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Woodcox said “I think the biggest issue here is a drug and mental health problem. And that’s why people are in the situation they are.

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“Sure, it’s a homeless situation, but drugs and mental health are the underlying factors that aren’t being dealt with.”