The City of Kelowna is facing criticism for confiscating the shopping carts full of homeless people's possessions, in a bid to handle a growing problem.

Complaints of blocked sidewalks prompted bylaw officers to hit the streets three times this week, urging people to clear up their belongings or risk losing them.

The crackdown came after the city received 20 complaints about carts last week.

Bylaw officers are going too far by confiscating carts loaded with homeless people's possessions, said Richard Mineault, of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who runs an outreach program for people living on the street.

"They had bags of blankets, clothes, tarps, shelter. They took away shelter and warmth," said Mineault.

"For what? It's not accomplishing anything. It's just making life hard for these people who've already got it hard," he added. "It just kills me. It's disheartening to see that the city is doing this."

Mayor says stories 'tough' to hear

Mayor Colin Basran says it's "tough" to hear about situations like these, but defended city actions, saying bylaw officers are only responding to citizen complaints.

"We are getting complaints ... saying, 'I don't feel safe in a certain area' or 'I can't use this street because of this,'" Basran told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

"It's a difficult situation and there isn't any simple answer, but all our bylaw officers are doing [is] enforcing our bylaws when there is a complaint," said the mayor.

If anything is confiscated, it's because the item is deemed abandoned, and anyone who believes they are the owner can try to reclaim the carts or possessions from the city, Basran added.

The closure of the Metro Community Church exacerbated the problem, Basran said. The church used to have a program where people could check their carts of belongings to keep them off the street. He said maybe it's time for the city to take a shopping cart check-in service on.

He also says the homelessness population is growing in the city, and he says local groups are working with all levels of government on solutions.

With files from Radio West