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Potential lawsuit looming against City of Kelowna after relocation of Leon Avenue homeless

A GoFundMe page has been started to help fund a potential lawsuit against the City of Kelowna for relocating the homeless from Leon Avenue to two parks in the city’s north end.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help fund a potential lawsuit against the City of Kelowna for relocating the homeless from Leon Avenue to two parks in the city’s north end. Global News

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help fund a lawsuit against the City of Kelowna.

The Class Action Against City of Kelowna GoFundMe page and potential lawsuit are in reaction to the city’s decision on Tuesday morning to relocate homeless people from Leon Avenue in the downtown core to two parks in the city’s north end, a middle-class neighbourhood.

Reaction was immediate, with residents gathering near Knox Mountain Park on Tuesday evening to protest the surprising decision.

READ MORE: City selects 2 north-end Kelowna locations as designated overnight homeless areas

“Obviously, there’s going to be an increase in crime,” said Brent Smith, a business owner. “But more than crime itself, there’s the public safety factor.

“Just today, I’ve had several people come in and tell me they used to let their kids run down to the corner store and they don’t feel comfortable doing that under this environment.”

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Asked what he thought about the city’s decision to relocate Kelowna’s tent city, Smith said he felt “absolutely blindsided.”

“We feel it’s very unjust, unfair, sneaky and underhanded of the city,” he said.

Another resident, Dena Barabash, said “there was no thought put into this.”

“It was one of those band-aid fixes that backfired,” Barabash said.

Kelowna’s tent city moved from Leon Avenue to North End
Kelowna’s tent city moved from Leon Avenue to North End

The city says the two new homeless camps will only operate between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m., adding that two security personnel will monitor the sites daily between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. and that both bylaw services and RCMP will enhance patrols throughout the neighbourhoods.

One of the homeless encampments is located beside the Kelowna Curling Club.

The club’s general manager, Jock Tyre, said they’re offering an open-arms approach.

“Hey, so we got some new neighbours; we don’t greet them with a sharp stick. We went over and to see what’s going on,” said Tyre.

“It’s not as scary as people are making it out to be.”

Extended interview with Kelowna mayor about moving Leon Avenue’s tent city
Extended interview with Kelowna mayor about moving Leon Avenue’s tent city

The GoFundMe page has a goal of $50,000. As of Thursday afternoon, $200 had been raised.

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Global News reached out to the page’s organizer on Wednesday morning to confirm that funds would be used for a potential lawsuit, and is not a scam.

A reply was received early Thursday, with the organizer not giving his or her name, but stating, “I can assure you that this is a professionally and economically responsible endeavour.”

The organizer added the potential lawsuit is “a good way to get accountability and action.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s not unchristian, it’s real life’; Kelowna pastor speaks out about homelessness

The page’s description starts off with, in capital letters, “no more open drug use, no more property crime, no more needles, no more intimidation and no more lip service from incompetent and ineffective officials.”

“The unannounced and strategically planned operation by the City of Kelowna officials to transplant these people to a residential neighbourhood away from Leon Avenue is the latest example of our local authority’s impotence and possibly a blatant abuse of authority,” the description reads.

“It is incomprehensible that any of our city’s residents should have to [bear] the risk to our health, homes and families, depreciation of quality of life, degradation of our neighbourhoods and depreciation of the value of our assets at the hands of our local government.”
Kelowna’s Gospel Mission director calls on city to take action as tent city grows, mayor says city doing all it can
Kelowna’s Gospel Mission director calls on city to take action as tent city grows, mayor says city doing all it can