A city official is assuring Londoners that a homeless man who had his belongings seized by authorities can get them back.
City bylaw officers and London police responded to complaints of a man obstructing pedestrian traffic Friday in the area of Huron Street and Highbury Avenue.
The man was briefly taken into police custody and released unconditionally.
Police confirmed their involvement with James Sunningdale – also known as Sunny James – who residents say is a fixture in the city's north end.
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His belongings, which residents say included several full shopping carts, were seized by city officials.
"We are sitting these belongings in a secure environment and he has the options of getting those belongings back," said Orest Katolyk chief municipal law enforcement officer.
Katolyk said city officials were in contact with the man multiple times prior to Friday's incident, after receiving complaints about three weeks ago.
Offers of assistance 'refused'
Several residents who were on the scene Friday spoke out through social media posts that generated more than 5,000 shares.
"Social media normally gets one side and another side commenting. Nobody really knows the entire picture," said Katolyk "It's false that we went in there without proper warnings and offerings of assistance."
James, who was camping out on a sidewalk in London's north end, was offered help from social service agencies but refused to acceptance assistance, said Katolyk.
He said the city received complaints from pedestrians having difficulty passing through the area where the man was positioned, including people using electric scooters.
The city intervened Friday and seized the items that were blocking the sidewalk.
Katolyk said the city is in contact with a lawyer representing the man to assist in getting his belongings back.
"There will be an expectation that he has somewhere to take these belongings and not back to city property because -- guaranteed -- we will get complaints again," said Katolyk.
He said the city is planning on waiving a return fee it charges after seizing property.