Rutland business owner reaching breaking point over 'negative interactions', points finger at province

Business owner fed up

A Rutland business owner says she's fed up with crime and homelessness in Rutland and is considering moving her business because of what she calls a "serious escalation" in negative interactions.

"I have a business in that area and there have been multiple assaults, overdoses, weapons reports and problems with illegal camping for months now since the cheque collection went in on Highway 33," said Stephanie Larsen.

Larsen says she refuses to sign a long-term lease for her business and instead is going month-to-month because she is afraid of what the future holds. While she spoke on the record with Castanet personally, she requested that the name of her business not be published.

"Yesterday a resident (on Dougall Road) was telling me she was assaulted at the bus exchange two days ago in broad daylight. I called in an overdose across from that bus stop on Tuesday, I believe the individual was deceased, at 5 p.m. and people were simply stepping over the body rather than calling 911," Larsen says.

The City of Kelowna and the Uptown Rutland Business Association acknowledge the issue and have taken steps to help.

URBA is launching an on-call pilot program, similar to the Downtown Kelowna “red shirt” program. The move comes after a spike in crime in the Rutland area over the first eight months of 2023. During that period, crime soared nearly 28%, while crime in the downtown core fell 22.3%.

Residents and businesses in the area blame much of the increase on the opening of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction office at 405 Highway 33 West, which moved from Dilworth Drive in the spring of 2023.

Larsen says she feels for the less fortunate and would like to see more support, but as a business owner she says her dream is on the verge of being dashed.

"You try and bring a dream to life opening a business and in Kelowna right now, I mean where do you go? Rent becomes impossible which would cause me to to price things so high that I'd lose all my customers," Larsen said.

"Rutland was a really great option three years ago and now I blame the province entirely for opening the distribution centre [Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction office] where they did for what's happening to this neighbourhood. It is not safe after business hours."

The RCMP has also moved some of its resources from downtown to Rutland in response to the spike in crime numbers.

Castanet reached out to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction for comment but did not receive a response.

The ministry has previously stated its office lease at Dilworth Drive ended, so they were forced to relocate.

"I think it was much better in the semi-industrial area down off Dilworth where I think that made a lot more sense," Larsen said. "Wasn't in people's backyard. It wasn't where people are walking around all day. It's students waiting for buses, that really bothers me."

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