Kelowna businesses concerned about growing homeless population

It’s just after 8 a.m., and the homeless are setting up camp in a tiny city park at the corner of Gordon Drive and Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna, at the Capri Mall.

It’s a scene that plays out every day — a scene that is wearing thin with neighbouring businesses.

Thomas Illichmann’s business is right across the street from the park. He said the neighbourhood has gone downhill in part because of a shelter called Inn From the Cold just up the street.

“I’ve been threatened. I’ve been threatened to have my house burned down, my business vandalized. I’ve been threatened with needles. Some other business owners have been assaulted,” Illichmann said.

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The person who was assaulted is Carol Barron. She owns a dog grooming business just next to the shelter. She said she was attacked by a homeless man who was camped in front of her store.

“It scared the crap out of me. I ran to the store and when I got there, I was so out of breath I just about collapsed because I thought the guy was chasing me,” Barron said.

No one from Inn From The Cold shelter was available to comment.

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Meanwhile, the homeless situation at Gordon and Sutherland has become political. Thomas Illichmann and local residents sat down with city councillor Ryan Donn Wednesday to voice their concerns. Donn said stepping up police presence in the area might be an option.

“Having boots on the ground — RCMP working with bylaw — and we got lots of good feedback for illegal activities downtown. So I think it might be more of a natural request for them to be asking council for,” Donn said.

There’s been talk of some businesses moving from the area because of the growing safety concerns, but owners like Carol Barron said it should be the other way around.

“I’m not moving. No, I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I’m not the one who needs to move. They need to move.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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