Thomas Illichmann says his life, his home and business have all been threatened—and he’s had enough.
The owner of Illichmann and Son’s Sausage and Deli says he’s ready to shut down the business which has been in his family for more than 50 years because of growing issues with the homeless around Gordon Drive and Sutherland Avenue.
He says the issue stems from people who use and hang out around Inn From the Cold, a shelter which provides a place to sleep for some of the city’s homeless population on Sutherland Avenue.
The shelter borders both a commercial and residential neighbourhood.
“I’ve just had enough. I dream of selling the property and giving it to the big developers who seem to be taking over Kelowna and I’ll move to Keremeos and set up my business there because I’ve had enough,” said Illichmann, who adds remaining in Kelowna would not be an option.
“Once I’ve been kicked out of the home I’ve lived in for 50 years, why should I move somewhere else?”
Illichmann says he doesn’t have an issue with the homeless of the facility itself. He just believes it is in the wrong place.
“I own a business, my name is on that business, and I don’t want to be known as that guy who doesn’t care for the homeless. I just think our government is doing a sh***y job of looking after it.
“The city never should have allowed that next to a residential neighbourhood. Someone should be fired at city hall in my opinion. That’s criminal.”
Along with the business, Illichmann also owns a property next to the business on Pacific Avenue where he lives along with other tenants.
He says the constant noise at night, people sleeping in business doorways and the constant struggle of having to clean up used needles and human feces has gone on too long.
With the constant yelling, he says he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in several years.
The problem has also affected several businesses along Sutherland across from the Capri Hotel.
Brian Doubt, owner of Sergeant Prepper’s Army Surplus says he’s also considering relocating, partly due to the problem.
He says almost every morning, business owners have to deal with people who have set up makeshift tents in their doorways.
Carol, who runs Groom N Go, a pet grooming business, says she was assaulted by a pair of homeless people while she tried to enter her business on a Sunday morning almost two months ago.
She says a man died after he was found unconscious next to her vehicle.
Despite those issues, she says she will tough it out at that location.
Inn From the Cold may not be a problem in the neighbourhood much longer.
John Wecels, president of the Columbus Housing Society which operates the building for the Knights of Columbus, says it may come down soon.
Wecels says the society is waiting to hear from the provincial government for more funding in order to build a low-cost housing project.
If all goes well, he says shovels could be in the ground by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Illichmann and other businesses along Sutherland are pitching in to hire security for the neighbourhood as a temporary measure.
“The city caused this problem,” he says. “Now we’re cleaning it up.”
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