Businesses located near an overnight homeless camp in Kelowna are hopeful that things will soon be back to normal, with word that the camp will be closed in the fall.
For Cheryl Butler, a Diabetes donation bin located across the parking lot from her business on Ellis Street in Kelowna is a pandora’s box.
“We watched a woman climb inside here,” Butler told Global News on Wednesday.
The trouble, according to Butler, is that homeless people continue to break into the donation bin to scavenge for clothing.
“These people on the street are literally ripping the bags open, they are trying on clothes,” Butler said.
It’s a problem that Butler says has increased markedly since Kelowna set up overnight camping for the homeless on Recreation Avenue.
The homeless campsite is just two blocks from her tax preparation business and she can see it out her front door.
“It’s a real challenge when we are trying to do professional business and I have clients that come by every day,” Butler said.
Wednesday, the City of Kelowna officially announced that overnight camping at the venue will come to an end.
“When the Ellis street supportive housing site opens this fall, the recreation avenue overnight sheltering will close,” City of Kelowna Director of Public Safety Darren Caul told Global News.
Butler’s Altogether Tax is located right across the street from where B.C. Housing’s new site will open in October.
“Ideally the park gets clean and the people have a place to live — that would be awesome,” Butler said.
“We had to put a compound up to the tune of $7,000,” Carlos Capela owner of M&T Northside Services said.
Capela fenced off his garage from the overnight camping area, which is across the alley from his building, in order to prevent late-night incursions on his property.
Capella is happy that the area could soon get its green space back.
“That’s great news. I hope that there are enough shelters and everything to look after them, but that’s fantastic for the park because it would be nice to be able to use that park like we used to,” Capela said.
The Recreation Park homeless campsite is only a stone’s throw away from the Kelowna Curling Club.
“I am really pleased — it is going to help keep our members feeling safer,” Curling Club manager Jock Tyre said, adding the club’s proximity to the camp has had a significant impact.
Tyre still worries about what will happen to the City’s homeless population until appropriate housing is found for them.
“For me personally, I’m concerned for them, that there is another place for them to go.”
For the city’s part, they are committed to providing shelter to those in need.
“Even if that legal obligation to provide a public space for overnight sheltering persists after the opening of Ellis Street we will find a different public space in our community,” Caul said.