People, tents and a whole lot of garbage surrounded the safe drug consumption site in downtown Kelowna Monday morning.
“It’s a regular occurrence,” said Steve Harvey, owner of Business Finders Canada across the street.
The consumption site, which is located on Pandosy Street at Leon Avenue, opened its doors in the spring of 2021. But in recent months, more people experiencing homelessness and addiction have been congregating outside the clinic.
That has resulted in more garbage in the area as well.
“I can’t operate my business that way,” said Harvey. “If I had that kind of mess, or if I had people in front of my business on a daily basis, I can be sure that the city would be coming down on me very, very harsh.”
The City of Kelowna has what it calls the Good Neighbour Bylaw but Harvey thinks it should be better enforced.
“Interior Health owns that building. They’re responsible for, you know, for them to be a good neighbour, in my opinion, and many of the businesses around here believe that as well,” Harvey said. “I’m not sure why the good neighbour policy isn’t applicable to that location.”
In an email to Global News, Interior Health’s Danielle Cameron, executive director of clinical operations for Central Okanagan, said “Interior Health is committed to being a good neighbour and we are doing everything we can, with the tools that we have, to prevent the congregation of individuals on the property outside the clinic on Pandosy Street.”
Calling it a challenging situation, Cameron added that “Interior Health is working with the City of Kelowna Bylaw, RCMP and other partners to improve the conditions of people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna, and reduce congregation on the streets.”
Cameron also stated, “A collective effort from the community and other agencies is needed to provide alternate spaces for people to go during the day and to sleep at night – Interior Health’s top priority is to ensure individuals have access to health services and supports.”
The City of Kelowna said there are a lot of resources dedicated to keeping the area clean.
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“As far as the city is concerned, we do work with Interior Health and with the RCMP and other city departments to try to maintain that site as best as possible,” said Kevin Mead, bylaw services manager for the City of Kelowna.
Mead said that includes clean-ups on a daily basis.
“Typically we pull through in the early hours of the morning just to get an assessment of where the need is greatest around the city,” Mead told Global News. “We try to prioritize those needs for the entirety of our community but typically, we do tend to that site between late morning and early afternoon.”
Harvey said it’s a very frustrating situation, especially because there is no end in sight.
“I can’t imagine the resources that the city is spending just on this block on a daily basis,” Harvey said.