Downtown Kelowna, B.C. businesses raising concerns over homeless population – Okanagan
Many downtown Kelowna, B.C. residents, and businesses are fed up with the increase of litter, graffiti, and crime.
They say they feel like their pleas for help are being ignored by the city, and they’re looking for action — sooner rather than later.
Trisha Kadla works in Kelowna’s downtown core, and every day she comes to her Pandosy Street office, she says she deals with the same issues.
“They’re usually camped outside my door so I can’t get into my office. I’ll have to try and flag down an RCMP officer to help me a lot of times I can’t get out of my office because midday, they’re shooting up,” said Kadla.
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She’s becoming increasingly frustrated with the vandalism, garbage and loitering in the area. Kadla says she’s seen it dramatically rise over the past six months.
“I don’t know that mayor and council really understand what this stretch of Kelowna, what’s really happening down here.”
However, Kelowna’s mayor, Tom Dyas, says it’s one of city council’s key issues and is talked about almost daily as officials search for solutions.
“Homelessness and the effect of what we’re seeing affect all communities but that does not mean that we need to dismiss it,” said Dyas.
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“It means that it’s a priority for us and we need to find ways to make it a little bit better.”
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Dyas says city council continues to come up with a plan and members would like to complete it before the summer months. He said that the city is putting extra effort into cleaning different neighbourhoods around Kelowna.
“There are a number of areas within our community potentially the Rail Trail, certain areas out in Rutland and other areas of our community. And we are sending our bylaw and our RCMP officers out as much as possible to service these particular areas,” he said.
Dyas says he continues to meet with downtown business owners as they come up with a collective solution to the current issues.
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Some downtown businesses attribute the increase in homeless people to the Outreach Urban Health Centre, which relocated to Pandosy Street in 2021. However, Interior Health (IH) says the move has allowed it to improve access to care.
“We’ve seen an increased success of reaching some people who historically maybe, would have come in for one service but not access the other. So really good for the people who are using the center,” said Danielle Cameron, executive director of Clinic Operations of IH South.
In recent months, IH has received an escalation in the number of calls from worried businesses.
“We’re talking a lot about how can we both help the individual, but also ensure that we’re recognizing and responding to the concerns of both the neighbours and the community at large,” said Cameron.
Kadla says she sympathizes with the unhoused population and would like to see more housing options, and opportunities available for them in the city. However, she hopes local officials can come up with a plan soon.
“It’s bad and it’s not getting any better.”
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