City staff in Kelowna made headlines all across the province Tuesday with its bold move to relocate about 100 homeless people from their familiar confines on Leon Ave. to two Kelowna parks in the north end of the city.
No matter what staff — with the blessing of city council — decided to do, they were open for criticism.
There are two reasons why homelessness and drug addiction are such complex issues.
There’s no magic-bullet solution. It’s not like spending X number of dollars and the problem is solved.
Homelessness is tricky and even experts don’t know how to solve it.
The second reason is this issue is about people. On this file, staff and council are not dealing with roads, buildings, sewers or public facilities. It’s on the human level — real, living, breathing people, some with addiction issues, others with mental illness and some who were dealt some bad cards in life.
The problem isn’t limited to Kelowna. Vernon and Penticton, which are much smaller, have issues. Larger cities like Vancouver and Edmonton face this on a much-larger scale.
The federal government does need to create a national drug strategy. It’s an enormous problem and municipalities need help.
Another consideration is someone out there must be doing things right. Which town or city in North America has solved the problem and how did they do it?
Back to Leon Avenue.
The tent city was a problem. Businesses were leaving.
While many homeless advocates appear less-than sympathetic to the business community, ask yourself one question. If you lost your job and livelihood over a tent city, would you be upset?
The business owners often have spouses and children. They have employees. In many cases, they rent their building, which also affects the livelihood of the landlords.
Knox Mountain and the park behind the curling club are far from perfect. But, is there an ideal location to set up a homeless camp?
Our one criticism of staff is not giving north-end residents any kind of advance warning about the relocation.
Time will tell if the move from Leon Avenue is an improvement.
But, it’s undeniable that something had to be done.
James Miller is managing editor of The Kelowna Daily Courier.