Vernon bylaw will step up monitoring at homeless camps

This homeless camp was decommissioned in November 2016.
Image Credit: City of Vernon

VERNON - With the number of homeless camps expected to rise again this summer, efforts are underway to keep them as clean and safe as possible.

Vernon council approved just over $81,000 for additional bylaw enforcement from April to November. The extra resources will be used to monitor camps and ensure they are not presenting health or safety hazards.

The courts have ruled that campers cannot be evicted from public spaces if no shelter beds are available. 

Council heard from Clint Kanester, manager of protective services, that local shelters have been turning men away due to a lack of space, although they have a little bit of room for women at the moment.

The province provides additional sleeping mats through its Extreme Weather Response Program from around November to March, but those extra beds are not available throughout the rest of the year, routinely leaving local shelters at capacity.

Last year, a couple of large homeless camps around Polson Park and Kal Tire Place were only decommissioned by the city after space became available in local shelters around the end of November.

“We really couldn’t do much about those camps until space came up,” Kanester says.

Kanester said the city may also need to look at changing its bylaws to allow camping in public parks within designated hours. The City of Victoria, for example, allows people to erect temporary shelters overnight as long as tents and property are cleared by 7 a.m.

Camping is not currently permitted in Vernon’s city parks.

Council has asked Kanester to bring a draft bylaw amendment for camping in parks forward for consideration.


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