There has been an increase in people sleeping outdoors

Homeless returning to Leon

Sarita Patel

The City of Kelowna wants to get the message out - people choosing to sleep outdoors are not permitted to do so on city sidewalks.

Community safety director Darren Caul told Castanet News there has been a noticeable increase in outdoor numbers as temperatures have climbed over the past few weeks.

There has also been a noticeable uptick in the number of people using Leon Avenue and other downtown sidewalks as their overnight sleeping quarters.

"Last year, we had a legal obligation to provide public spaces for those people sleeping outdoors," said Caul.

That included what became a "Tent City" along Leon Avenue through October and November.

Court rulings determined the city couldn't just tear down those tents when an adequate alternative did not exist.

That option does exist at a camp in a park off Recreation Avenue which was opened in late November after a fire sparked in a tent on Leon.

"We're all working to get the messaging out about Recreation Avenue."

Caul says the Recreation Avenue option was never decommissioned, although infrastructure around a warming tent has been removed.

He says many people seem to be congregating around Leon Avenue because that's where they can get a meal.

With concerns around the COVID-19 epidemic, the Kelowna Gospel Mission is delivering bagged breakfast and lunch to those on the streets.

Beginning last night, the Salvation Army began serving a hot dinner at Recreation Avenue from its mobile meal truck.

Caul also said a second outdoor camp at the base of Knox Mountain is being decommissioned.

He said infrastructure is being removed from that location.

The area is being closed over an abundance of caution as the fire season nears.

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