UPDATE: City of Penticton issues statement refuting "war on the homeless" in court case - InfoNews

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UPDATE: City of Penticton issues statement refuting "war on the homeless" in court case

Penticton street person Paul Braun with his lawyer, Paul Varga, at the 200 block breezeway on Main Street. Varga sat in support of Braun at noon today, Jan.30, 2018, as Braun faces a trial over bylaw infractions with the city. Braun and Varga were joined by other residents who offered food and support.
January 30, 2018 - 10:20 AM

PENTICTON - The City of Penticton has issued a public statement regarding their current enforcement proceedings on Penticton resident Paul Braun.

Braun is a well-known street person, known to frequent the entrance to a breezeway located in the 200 block of Main Street.

Court proceedings against Braun were initiated late last year after city bylaw enforcement officers issued eight tickets against him, citing the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw, specifically the regulation governing street nuisances, noise, property maintenance and smoking.

Part of the bylaw states, “No person shall panhandle in a manner to cause an obstruction. The governing obstruction is restricted to within ten metres of an entrance to or within an enclosed or covered pedestrian walkway."

In its statement, issued this morning, Jan. 30, the City takes the position Braun’s sitting in the breezeway constitutes as obstruction, in contravention of the Good Neighbour Bylaw, noting procedure comes with a verbal reminder, followed by a written warning or ticket. Failure to comply through these means would be followed by a court order.

The City states efforts have been made to encourage Braun to find alternative locations to the walkway for the purpose of panhandling. His failure to relocate has resulted in the issuing of eight tickets between July 18 and Oct. 29, 2017.

Braun continued to ignore the bylaw and as a result, the City engaged in court proceedings.

The City also refutes the idea Braun’s prosecution is a result of the city leading a "war on the homeless."

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the city said in its statement, noting Braun is not homeless, and has rejected a deal from the city prosecutor that would require Braun to comply with the bylaw in exchange for the City waiving 90 per cent of the fines issued.

The City states there is no correlation between the circumstances surrounding Braun’s failure to comply with the Good Neighbour Bylaw and challenges surrounding the homeless in Penticton.

The City also notes its efforts to find solutions to the homeless and create affordable housing opportunities in the city.

Penticton lawyer Paul Varga, representing Paul Braun, said last week he would be sitting in the breezeway in a demonstration of support of his client at noon today,  Jan. 30.

He said the timing of the city's statement was "evident," adding he wasn't aware the case was going to be negotiated through the media.

"I'm not putting out press releases of my own, but I will answer questions," he said after reviewing the city's statement.

"We rejected the offer mentioned because we didn't have full disclosure from the city, and we still don't. We can't accept any deals until we know what's on the table," he said.

Varga also noted his client was homeless at the time of the offences, but has since found a residence.

Braun’s case is expected to go to trial Sept. 11 to Sept. 15.

— This story was updated at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2017 to include more information from defence lawyer Paul Varga.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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