Kelowna's on its own with sidewalk sleeping bylaw; other Interior cities don't come close - InfoNews

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Kelowna's on its own with sidewalk sleeping bylaw; other Interior cities don't come close

Kelowna is the only Interior city that has made it illegal to sleep on a public sidewalk at night.
December 07, 2016 - 6:30 PM

"IT'S TALKING TO PEOPLE, GETTING THEM ASSISTANCE AND JUST RESPONDING TO THE PUBLIC'S CONCERNS AND COMPLAINTS."

KELOWNA – It's only been a few days since the City of Kelowna made it illegal for homeless people to sleep on sidewalks at any time, however other major cities in the Interior say they have no plans to follow suit.

On Monday, Dec. 5, Kelowna councillors unanimously passed a controversial bylaw that prohibits sleeping or sitting on sidewalks at any time of day or night, expanding a previous bylaw that specified no sleeping or sitting during business hours.

Critics of the law say it only makes life harder for people who are already struggling, however the city says it is necessary in order to keep the public safe and businesses from losing customers.

While Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton all have obstruction laws, Kelowna is the only Interior city issuing fines for sitting or sleeping on a public sidewalk at night.

Kamloops safety director David Duckworth says bylaws allow for overnight sleeping and complaints are treated individually.

“We take quite a soft approach based on complaint-basis only,” he says. “While we do foot patrols, we don’t proactively go out and look for these things.”

He says as long as makeshift shelters are taken down by 7 a.m. they are usually left alone.

“They’d have to really be causing the public a nuisance for something to happen,” he says. “It’s talking to people, getting them assistance and just responding to the public's concerns and complaints.”

Vernon’s manager of protective services, Clint Kanester, says certain traffic bylaws can be invoked if necessary and there is a Good Neighbour Panhandling regulation but there is no sleeping clause that regulates sitting or sleeping on a public sidewalk day or night.  

Penticton spokesperson Tina Siebert says their Good Neighbour bylaw also prohibits creating an obstruction for the purpose of panhandling but “laying or sleeping on the sidewalk is rarely a public complaint to our department.”

“We have not taken the same stance as Kelowna with new bylaws or bylaw amendments related to persons sleeping on the sidewalks primarily because it is not as pressing of an issue in Penticton,” she says. “If this changes, we will certainly reevaluate and consider the direction that the City of Kelowna has moved towards.”

Close to 100 opponents to the new bylaw gathered outside Kelowna City Hall this week to protest the new bylaw, however the city is standing by their decision.

Mayor Colin Basran defended the legislation saying the purpose 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 a statement released on the City of Kelowna website. “I want to be abundantly clear the City of Kelowna is not targeting people sleeping on our streets with the purpose of harassing or incarcerating our most vulnerable residents.”

Some of those vulnerable residents say the fine is pointless since they already have no money and would go somewhere else if they could.

“We don’t want to be outside, we have to be outside,” Cheralyn Redford says. “(A bylaw) is not going to change the fact that we’re homeless.”


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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