July 02, 2016 - 2:30 PM
PENTICTON - A Penticton advocate for the homeless says he is frustrated by what he sees are city attempts to move the city’s homeless out of sight.
Mike Forster recently heard of a homeless man receiving a ticket for panhandling under the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw.
“In the past they ticketed him a lot, but hadn’t in a while, and now they’re ticketing him instead of helping him. I don’t understand that,” says Forster, who heads up the Penticton based society, “Keep the Cold Off Penticton,” a group pushing for a permanent shelter for the city’s homeless.
The homeless man, Paul Braun, has been a common fixture in the downtown core for the past three years, as he generally takes up residency in the breezeway near Penticton Smartshopper.
On June 21, he was given a $90 fine for obstructing the sidewalk while panhandling.
“He might be better off if he could go to jail in winter for not paying tickets, at least he’d get three square meals a day and a roof over his head, but they don’t do that,” Forster says, noting the man has no credit, no money, and little opportunity to pay the ticket.
“Why is the city wasting time and money ticketing him, and maybe cause a scene and further trouble because he gets angry? It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s just a matter of ticketing somebody who can’t pay anything - where’s this going to go?” he says. "It’s like they are hiding the problem and saying look how beautiful Penticton is, look how nice it is, we have no homeless and no garbage, but we’ve put them around the corner, just hiding the problem."
Braun wasn’t at his usual spot on the morning of Wednesday, June 29, but two other men had taken up the location, panhandling. Braun had returned to his spot by noon, however.
“They’ve been after me since May 1,” he says. “ I think it’s crap. I don’t have any money to pay it, so let ‘em keep on writing them.”
He said he’s been told by bylaw officers they were going to ticket him to the point where they could “red zone” him, making downtown off limits to him.
“If I was sitting back there, it wouldn’t be a problem,” he says, gesturing to the back of the breezeway, which connects Main Street with an alley and a parking lot. “Then they could say Penticton doesn’t have a homeless problem."
City of Penticton Communications Officer Tina Lee says the city is not prohibiting panhandling, simply regulating where panhandling occurs.
“We get complaints from downtown businesses and other passers-by that feel uncomfortable and unsafe entering the breezeway, seeing Mr. Braun in front of it. If we allow one, we have to allow them all and we are not prepared to do that,” she says in an email.
“We understand Mr. Braun is homeless and will likely not pay the outstanding tickets, however we have been encouraging him for a very long time to find a different location that is not contrary to the Good Neighbour Bylaw,” Lee adds.
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