Homeless man arrested briefly, possessions taken
Published Saturday, July 15, 2017 11:37AM EDT Last Updated Saturday, July 15, 2017 6:42PM EDT
A homeless man who has been camped out at Huron Street and Highbury Avenue for weeks was arrested briefly Friday evening and his possessions taken.
London police say they were asked by city officials to attend the scene after a 64-year-old man was deemed to have broken by-laws.
“We were on standby to make sure there were no issues. We were there to keep the peace,” said Const. Melissa Duncan.
She said 64-year-old Sunny James was arrested for “interfering” as bylaw officers were involved in municipal enforcement.
“He (James) remained on scene and he was released at the scene.”
Duncan said police didn’t charge him and referred all other questions to the city.
Coun. Mo Salih told CTV News that he has heard from hundreds of citizens about Sunny with various views about him. He said he asked to be kept in the loop about Sunny but found out via social media what happened Friday evening.
He posted this response that he received from the chief of bylaw, Orest Katolyk, on Saturday:
"In response to numerous citizen complaints, on Friday evening London city by law officers accompanied by London police and social service caseworkers removed personal items belonging to a citizen who was residing on a city sidewalk. These items will be stored by the city under the authority of the streets by law. This action was taken to ensure public safety."
Salih said he can't interfere with individual enforcement actions but said enforcement is the last option and the community needs to have a bigger discussion about the issue of homelessness.
CTV London has interviewed James in the past who said he did not want to stay in shelters and that he was not causing any problems where he was.
Following removal of his belongings Friday, there was an outcry on social media.
“They left him with nothing in his bare feet and even took his sleeping bag,” Absolutely shocked this man was treated this way," said one woman who had witnessed the events.
“This is very sad. Sonny is a local homeless London man. He wouldn't hurt a fly," another wrote on Facebook.
Katolyk said Sunny's belongings are in a secure space and he is able to get them back.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Sunny get a campsite at Fanshawe Conservation Area, which is where he told CTV News that he wanted to go.
"Sunnys (sic) goal was to just make it to Fanshawe where he could camp and just peacefully enjoy life. He has never begged or asked for help but is appreciative of every meal someone has dropped off to him in the past and enjoys chatting with everyone," it says on the page.