Tent city on Leon Ave being moved after fire sparked in tent

Tent city on the move

Leon Avenue will be devoid of tents later today.

The City of Kelowna is making space available in two parks with enough space to allow the homeless to set up their temporary shelters.

A section at the base of Knox Mountain Park near Poplar Point Road, and a park off Recreation Avenue will be set up for people who need to shelter outdoors overnight.

"Our primary concern with the current use of tents for overnight shelter on Leon is safety related," said Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting.

"Specifically, the close grouping of tents due to the rapid and surprising growth of people sheltering outside, highly combustible materials, and the observed use of unsafe heaters creating fire or carbon monoxide risk to the residents."

News of the move comes after fire crews were called to a fire at the encampment overnight.

The city says court rulings have determined the city can't outright tear down the tents when there is not adequate shelter space available. However, it can determine which parks or public spaces can be used.

"Overnight sheltering in public spaces is not the long-term solution,” said community safety director Darren Caul. 

“Through the Journey Home Strategy, the city will continue to advocate for the provincial government and community groups to provide additional supportive and scattered housing to eliminate the need for people to shelter outdoors.”

People will be allowed to set up their tents after 1 p.m. today, however, on other days, shelters will only be permitted to be erected at 7 p.m. and must be removed by 9 a.m.

The city is making transportation available to help in the transition from Leon Avenue.

While admitting this is not an ideal situation for everyone, the city says the sites best balance the rights of those sheltering outside with people impacted in neighbouring areas and the broader community.

Security will monitor the sites from 6 p.m. until 10 a.m.

More Kelowna News