Advocates say proposed new Kelowna sidewalk bylaw will only make life harder for the homeless

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KELOWNA – If Kelowna city council passes a final reading of a new bylaw, sleeping on sidewalks within city limits, even at night, will be a fineable offence.

Currently it is only illegal to sleep or lay down on public sidewalks from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. however if approved, homeless people living downtown could be punished with a $50 fine.

“I want to be abundantly clear that the City of Kelowna is not targeting people sleeping on our streets with the purpose of harassing or incarcerating our most vulnerable residents,” Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said in a written response posted to the city website this week.  

“The purpose of this bylaw is to prevent people from obstructing sidewalks and preventing accessibility for residents. The bylaw also prevents people from congregating on sidewalks and intimidating others," he said in the statement.

The proposed legislation has drawn criticism from homeless advocates who say it punishes those who already have nothing and cannot be enforced.

Executive director of the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, Michelle Novakowski, says while she understands businesses not wanting their sidewalks blocked, there has to be alternatives for those who have no other options.

“I think (Council) are hoping they’ll go somewhere else but where are they going to go?” she asks. “They may not fit at a shelter because they’re afraid to be in groups like that. Most of them are survivors of abuse, dealing with post-traumatic stress or substance abuse… and a lot don’t have the capacity to keep looking for housing.”


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