Geraldine Mailloux says homeless people she doesn’t know have been staying in the backyard of her home on Pandosy Street since early December.
It started, she said, when she saw a homeless man sleeping on the other side of her fenced yard, with busy Pandosy Street just feet away.
Geraldine said she told the man that he could spend the night in her front yard, but that he’d have to move the next day to a safer location.
In an interview with Global News, Geraldine said before she knew it, he moved into the backyard, then invited two other homeless people to join him, with one woman taking over a shed that Geraldine was using to house five neutered feral cats.
Geraldine’s daughter, Rollanda, said someone tried breaking into the house, which led to her spending nights there to help alleviate her mom’s fears.
“They were taking advantage of her,” said Rollanda. “It was getting to the point where they were trying to break into the house and stuff. We can’t have that.
“It’s one thing to be in need and it’s one thing to be nice, but you can’t destroy somebody else’s life just because you want to.”
Geraldine, who has been living at the home since 1990, says her daughter is the only person she can lean on in Kelowna.
Rollanda says the squatters had been asked to leave several times, to no avail. She also said the woman was using her mom’s address to collect social assistance.
They also claimed the man was stealing energy by taking the heater from the cat shed and using a long extension cord to warm his makeshift lean-to.
Also, Rollanda said a health nurse and a police officer showed up at the house on Tuesday looking for a homeless woman.
“I was overwhelmed that they came to administer help to her,” said Geraldine, “because she was living in my shed.”
Geraldine said she told the officer that they shouldn’t be living in her backyard, with the officer asking if they’d like them removed, to which she said yes.
The nurse, according to Rollanda, was more concerned with finding the woman than seeing strangers living in Geraldine’s backyard.
“My mom doesn’t collect money from them. She doesn’t know them,” said Rollanda.
On Thursday, police arrived to investigate.
Kelowna RCMP said the incident should be resolved, with an officer stating they found a note from the backyard campers saying they were indebted to Geraldine and that they were moving to a homeless shelter.
“If you allow people to stay for a while, sometimes they overstay their welcome, and then it becomes difficult,” said RCMP Const. Paul Mlait.
“I know people become afraid and it’s OK to call us.”
Rollanda said she’s hopeful the squatters will leave.
“I’m not trying to be a bully, and neither is my mom,” she said. “They were asked to leave several times.
“It’s not like we told them they could stay forever; it was just ‘come off the road,’ kind of thing.”