March 27, 2015 - 7:30 PM
KAMLOOPS – As the warmer weather approaches, Kamloops residents and the city’s bylaw department are facing an increase in homeless camps erected near parks and trail paths.
Kathie McCauley says for the last two months she’s encountered garbage from a camp on the trail she walks regularly by the riverfront in Valleyview. Recently, she’s seen two tents pop up in the area. She notified the city through the bylaw department's Facebook page a few weeks ago but says nothing has changed.
“A little bit further down the trail about two hundred yards down there’s another area that looks like somebody just sleeps on the ground,” she says. “There’s a fire pit and a collapsed tent with sleeping bags. And a bit of girl’s clothing there — a dress and a pair of shorts.”
McCauley says she understands the plight of homelessness, but doesn’t like to see the trail she walks on become littered with trash. She adds she feels uncomfortable on her walk as she treads through someone’s living area.
“If you walk along there, they’re staring at you. It’s very intimidating. I don’t know what they’re going to do. When you’re down there nobody can see you,” she says.
The city’s Community Safety and Enforcement Manager Jon Wilson says the number of transient files always increases once winter ends. So far this year, his department has dealt with 45 transient files.
“I think that’s in part because some people who may have been couch-surfing are now camping,” he says. Wilson notes more people are active in spring which leads to more discoveries and complaints of the camps as well.
Camp-takedowns follow complaints from the public, Wilson says. He notes because of the numerous responsibilities bylaws have, the office can’t afford to designate officers to supervise all trail areas in the city but they do try to respond to public complaints.
Wilson says a Supreme Court of Canada decision a couple years ago permitted those who were homeless to camp in city areas, but only from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The camp must be disassembled outside of that time. Campers can pack up the tent and move along to a new area to set up camp. He says the riverfront area near McCauley's walking area permits camping within those terms, but campers are not permitted to set up on trails.
Critics of the bylaw suggest that the city have a designated location for tents, but Wilson says it could lead to other issues.
“When you start grouping people in these circumstances there are challenges,” he says. “In some respects there are concerns of (people) preying on each other.”
He says officers are currently following up on McCauley’s complaint and investigating the area.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015