Nearly half of all bylaw calls involve Vernon's street entrenched population | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Nearly half of all bylaw calls involve Vernon's street entrenched population

Bylaw officers in Polson Park, October 2019.
November 12, 2019 - 8:00 AM

Almost 50 per cent of files dealt with by the City of Vernon's bylaw department involved the city's street entrenched population.

A report from the City of Vernon's Protective Services department scheduled to be tabled at the City's Nov. 12 meeting, also shows that nearly half of those files are directly related to homeless people seeking shelter, as opposed to panhandling or other complaints.

The report covers the period Jan. 1 to Oct. 28, 2019, and states that bylaw officers received 5,711 calls to service in this period, of which 49 per cent were related to the street entrenched population. Of those, 44 per cent — or one-fifth of all calls to bylaw — were related to homeless people seeking temporary shelter in one form or another.

Manager of protective services Geoff Gaucher told the remaining street entrenched based files often involved antisocial behaviours like aggressive panhandling and obstructing sidewalks, as well as open drug use.

Gaucher said the number of files so far in 2019 concerning the street entrenched population is on par with numbers from 2018.

The number of street entrenched population files bylaw officers deal with had jumped dramatically in recent years.

In 2011 the bylaw department dealt with 403 street such files. That number grew gradually to 797 in 2016, before jumping to 1,289 in 2017 and increasing in 2018 to 2,208 files.

The numbers for 2019 now break down how many of the street entrenched files directly involve homeless people finding somewhere to sleep.

Figures for this year show the department dealt with 1,153 cases of shelters on public property and 78 on private property. The report points out that property owners are responsible for the removal of temporary shelters or encampments from vacant homes, buildings or off of undeveloped lands.

Of the 1,153 files concerning shelters on public property the vast majority, 70 per cent, involved shelters being erected prior to dusk or not taken down by 9 a.m. in the parks where homeless people are allowed to camp between these times.

City of Vernon bylaws allows people to camp in some parks in the city, with conditions, between dusk and 9 a.m. However, sheltering is prohibited completely on the grounds of the Recreation and Performing Arts Centre, Kal Tire Place, Cenotaph Park, Spirit Square and Linear Park.

"We still need more investment in respect to mental health and addiction before we see a drop in these numbers," Gaucher said.

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP detachment recently released statistics which for the first time included Street Entrenched Policing Target Analysis, known as SEPTA.

The report showed in the third quarter of 2019, 11 per cent of calls to service for the RCMP in Vernon involved the street entrenched population.

You can find the bylaw statistics here, if you scroll to page 179. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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