Penticton homeless camp base for those looking for work, says camper - InfoNews

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Penticton homeless camp base for those looking for work, says camper

Sylvain Demers, at left, says campers using a piece of city property at Main Street and Preston Avenue are either working or looking for work, and need a stationary place to stay.
July 23, 2019 - 1:59 PM

PENTICTON - It’s not easy being homeless in Penticton, and Sylvain Demers says he knows all about it. He's trying to cope by working a job while having no fixed address.

Demers and his wife are part of a growing encampment located on a small triangle of park-like city property at the corner of Main Street and Preston Avenue that sprang up about five days ago.

He says the dozen or so people in the camp are sick of being pushed around. All they want is to have a place to sleep at night while they work, or look for work.

Bylaw and RCMP officers come by in the morning and force everyone to pack up and move along, he says. Then they come back and are moved along the next morning. His boss got tired of chasing him around the city and told him if he couldn’t find a stationary place to go, it could cost him his job.

Originally the campers had an understanding with RCMP and officers would leave them alone between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., but city bylaw changed that to dusk to dawn. 

“So we’ve got to figure out when that is,” he says.

Demers says bylaw has treated them fairly, with the expectation they keep things clean.

“They wake us every morning, they want the area cleaned up. Some citizens are mad, and some are accepting. All in all, it’s a process,” Demers says, adding local citizens and church groups have provided help.

“We’re just sick of being pushed around and lumped in with that criminal body of homeless that seem to be robbing Penticton civilians,” he says. “We keep things clean. We have a stationary spot now, so we can go looking for work. Everybody here watches everybody else’s stuff, so there’s no risk of theft. That’s all we’re trying to achieve.”

Demers says he’s been homeless since he broke his leg and lost his job. His wife hurt her back after jumping from a second storey window during a structure fire and they are now living in a tent with what’s left of their possessions.

“Homeless is homeless, whether you have a backpack, a bike or a cart, people aren’t too willing to help. We are trying to promote an atmosphere of no drug use and no alcohol,” he says. “You’re in bed by 11 and up by dawn to go look for a job. That’s why this is here. If you don’t want to do that, go back downtown and be homeless."

City bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert said the city is currently “drafting messaging” regarding the issue. She says the city has received a number of public complaints about the issue.

“We’re dealing with it,” she said, adding more information would be available later today, July 23.

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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