Online outrage after London man booted from makeshift camp by bylaw officers

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A city crackdown on a bylaw-breaking campout near a busy northeast London intersection is drawing harsh criticism after officials seized property and sent a man packing.

Sunny, as he’s known by witnesses and neighbours, put down stakes on the sidewalk at Huron Street near Vesta Road weeks ago – taking up part of the walkway and city land with his shopping carts and belongings.

Responding to public complaints, bylaw officials and social service workers moved Sunny from his spot Friday evening, bringing along police to help keep the peace.

When the man began interfering with the bylaw officers’ investigation, he was temporarily taken into police custody. No charges were laid by police or bylaw officials.

Charges or not, the move sparked outrage online, and even a GoFundMe page to support Sunny. In just six hours, it raised more than $600. A video of the incident posted on Facebook has been viewed more than 11,000 times.

“I think it was a blindside. They showed up with a trailer and came to take his stuff without giving him any warning,” said Tyler Gallant, who shot the 12-minute video on his phone.

“He’s a very nice guy to talk to and overall a good person and he’s not doing any harm to anyone or anything.”

Gallant and his mother Charon had only positive things to say about Sunny and are disappointed the issue couldn’t have been handled another way by the bylaw office.

“There’s lots of things in our city that are uncomfortable, but he wasn’t hurting anyone. He moved off the sidewalk to let people by,” she said.

“He had nowhere to go. He had no idea what he was going to do. They wouldn’t even let him get his shoes.”

The Gallant family does not know where Sunny is now, but helped him contact his lawyer to set things straight. In the meantime, the city’s bylaw office is temporarily storing the man’s property for safekeeping.

“He has the ability to get these items back. The action was taken in response to numerous citizen complaints both to our department and to London police,” said chief bylaw enforcement officer Orest Katolyk.

For the weeks he was camped out on Huron Street, Katolyk said his office had several conversations with the man to no avail.

“We also engaged the services of numerous, numerous social service agencies to assist in finding him a reasonable place to reside,” he said.

“He cannot continue to take over city property and city sidewalks. We’ve had a history with this individual and numerous complaints.”

Ward 3 councilor Mo Salih has heard negative comments from his constituents about Sunny’s set-up, especially how it was blocking the sidewalk. Other times, Salih said people were supportive of Sunny and didn’t want to see him moved.

“This is an example of some of the challenges we’re faced in trying to ensure that we help all those in need,” he said.

“My hope is that, in every instance, we can find a positive solution.”

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