British Columbia

Homeless campers evicted from street as new club opens in downtown Kelowna, B.C.

People sleeping in tents overnight in downtown Kelowna, B.C., are upset RCMP officers forced them to pack up their tents and move the same evening a new nightclub opened last Friday.

Gotham nightclub owner said he contacted police about safety concerns

Homeless campers set up on Kelowna's Leon Avenue near the Gotham nightclub which celebrated its opening last Friday. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

People sleeping in tents overnight on Leon Avenue in Kelowna, B.C., are upset RCMP officers forced them to pack up their belongings and move ahead of the grand opening of the Gotham nightclub over the weekend.

The street eviction happened around 8 p.m. PT last Friday in the Okanagan city, according to the RCMP. 

In a statement Cpl. Meghan Foster wrote the campers' tents were blocking a lane of traffic and posed "serious safety concerns to pedestrians, drivers and the homeless campers and to the people occupying those tents."

Camper Derek Foreel said he was already in his tent, settling in for the night when several police cars pulled up with their lights flashing.

"They said over the loud speaker that we had 10 minutes to vacate or we would face getting arrested and losing our stuff," said Foreel, who has been homeless on and off for the past four years.

"They even said they would throw [our stuff] in the dumpster."


Katelynn Currey was also roused from her tent. 

"I'm pretty angry," said Currey who has been sleeping on Leon Avenue since this summer.

"It was cold and it just started raining and they had all day to come tell us to clean up."

Homeless camper Gary Baker said there were a lot of people on Leon that evening with some tents on the street instead of the sidewalk.

"I guess we pushed our limits," Baker said. 

"Yeah, we were way out [onto the street.] With the amount of traffic, somebody could have got hurt, maybe."

Homeless camper Katelynn Currey, 17, has been living on Kelowna's Leon Avenue for the past four months. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Leon Avenue has long been a gathering place for people who are homeless in Kelowna because of its proximity to support services.

This year dozens of homeless people have been setting up tents to spend the night on the street — a situation the RCMP and the City of Kelowna has allowed as long as campers move on the next morning.

The eviction Friday evening coincided with the opening of the Gotham nightclub on Leon Avenue which has led some campers to believe the RCMP were moving them out to allow space for people coming to the club.

Gotham owner Eddie Racano, who also owns a second nightclub on Leon Avenue, told CBC News he contacted the RCMP ahead of his new club's opening to speak about his concerns with the homeless people in the area.

"I definitely talked to them about making sure our streets are safer and the homeless — trying to manoeuvre regular patrons and them on the street as well," Racano said.

"My patrons get approached by them so I wanted to make sure it's safe and there's not fights."

Gary Baker understands why RCMP officers cleared the street on Friday saying the roadway was packed with people and some campers had set up their tents on the street instead of the sidewalk. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Some of the campers say it's the people coming to Leon Avenue for the nightlife who cause the problems.

"There's a lot of drunk people that will be really mouthy and try to take our [belongings] or they will say just really horrible things," said Currey.

"I think some of the clubs don't understand and they think we start the stuff when really we just stay in our tents and mind our own." 

The RCMP said it took about one hour to clear the street and there were no arrests.


Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan