Homeless carts seized

Bylaw officers confiscated grocery carts used by the homeless in downtown Kelowna, Wednesday.

City bylaw manager Greg Wise confirmed officers took the action on the 200 block of Leon Avenue, around the Gospel Mission.

Wise said bylaw staff acted because of the number of carts in front of and across the street from the mission, which were blocking sidewalks and the road.

"We have had a significant increase in the volume and size of the groups that are storing their items across from the Gospel Mission, either directly in front of, or on the opposite north side of the street," said Wise.

"It's causing complaints of appropriate access and egress issues for these businesses and pedestrians walking along the street."

It's not a new problem, according to Wise, who said his office has been dealing with the issue for some time.

Bylaw officers have been working with the RCMP's Downtown Enforcement Unit on issues in the high-concentration areas.

"The carts are technically stolen property, so the RCMP has been addressing that and bylaw has been working in a co-ordinated effort, assisting them. The carts are returned to the stores or, if they're not claimed, they get recycled," said Wise.

"Everyone is able to take what they need of the items (in the cart) if they are there at the time. If there are abandoned items, then those items are impounded and stored in our bylaw storage area for a 30-day period."

Those who were with their carts were able to gather up their belongings, however, those who were not had the items confiscated.

Wise believes one cart full of items was impounded.

"Obviously, the homeless issue is a greater issue, but when it comes down to a street-level issue on a sidewalk, blocking a roadway, it becomes a bylaw enforcement issue that our department is duty-bound to enforce."

The Gospel Mission was also issued an unsightly premises ticket.

Wise said staff have been working with the Mission for some years to find a spot the homeless can leave their belongings that is on private property.

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