Vernon council approves new rules for sheltering in city parks | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon council approves new rules for sheltering in city parks

August 14, 2017 - 5:34 PM

VERNON - It’s now officially against the rules to have a temporary shelter in a Vernon city park between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and those in contravention of the bylaw could face fines.

Vernon city council approved a series of bylaw amendments today, Aug. 14, setting out specific rules, regulations and penalties for sheltering in city parks.

The bylaws include fines starting at $50 for not adhering to the time limit, and as high as $200 for setting up a temporary shelter in a public place.

Darren Lees, the City’s acting manager of protective services, told council that bylaw uses a progressive enforcement approach, usually starting with education and proceeding to a fine if necessary.

Still, some Vernon councillors expressed concern that homeless individuals could find it difficult to pay the fines, especially if they accumulate.

“If a guy does it ten times in a row, say we fine him $2,000. We’re not going to go to court to get it. It’s like trying to get blood out of a stone. It just makes us look a little bit ridiculous,” Coun. Bob Spiers said.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham and Coun. Scott Anderson also felt that most people affected by the bylaw would not likely be in a position to pay back fines.

“I would really like to see an alternative mechanism that involves pubic service or something that doesn’t create another excuse or barrier to a person moving forward,” Anderson said.

Chief administrative officer Will Pearce told council that even though individuals may not be able to pay the fines, it’s important to have some kind of consequence to enforce the bylaw.

Pearce also told council that a plan is in place to transition those currently sheltering in city parks toward the new bylaw.

“Folks who are impacted will be notified well in advance. We treat folks with respect but they need to understand there is a bylaw in place and there are expectations,” Pearce said.

The City and North Okanagan Social Planning Council/Partners in Action will be working with the Camp Okanagan Outreach Liaison (COOL) Team to create awareness around the new bylaw and continue to provide support for homeless residents in Vernon in the coming weeks. Posters are being distributed that show the difference between what an acceptable temporary shelter and what is not permitted.

Coun. Cunningham also expressed some concern over the specific hours of the bylaw, noting that it will soon be dark out well before 9 p.m.

“We haven’t really thought the seasonal times out thoroughly,” Cunningham said.

Council has the option of amending the time restriction in the future.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston 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, 2017

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