Vernon councillor calls for homeless to be allowed to camp outside City Hall | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon councillor calls for homeless to be allowed to camp outside City Hall

Vernon bylaw officers in Polson Park.
November 12, 2019 - 4:59 PM

A Vernon councillor has proposed to ban homeless people from camping in Polson Park and instead open up the grounds of City Hall for camping.

Scott Anderson presented the motion at council's Nov. 12 meeting, which would outlaw camping in Polson Park - which is currently allowed between dusk and 9 a.m. - and instead would open up City Hall grounds to allow for overnight camping.

Anderson told the motion would send a message “that we are all in this together” and “send a message to the citizens of Vernon.”

Anderson's motion will not be debated by councillors until a future meeting but the councillor said he was “hopeful” it would pass.

In a statement sent to the media shortly before Anderson put forward the motion, he described Polson Park as “Vernon's jewel” and the first thing many visitors see when driving into Vernon.

“But lately the area directly adjacent to the fountain has become a favoured camping ground for the street entrenched population, who leave a large, tarped mound of possessions during the day, around which open drug use is witnessed daily. It's become both an eyesore and a burden on our Bylaw and RCMP officers, and it's time we did something about it,” read Anderson's statement.

Anderson also proposed a chance to a current bylaw which allows homeless people to camp in some city parks, including Polson Park, between dusk and 9 a.m. Anderson would like this changed to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The motion was put forward shortly after the City's bylaw department reported to council its annual budget was slightly above $1.3 million and that almost half of all calls it received involved Vernon's street entrenched population.

Councillor Kelly Fehr pointed out the lack of affordable housing in Vernon and the money spent on bylaw officers to deal with the homeless. Fehr asked Protective Services manager Geoff Gaucher if the City was to allow homeless people to camp 24/7 when shelters were full, which would be the best park?

However, before an answer could be given, chief administrative officer Will Pearce said it had been shown in many other cities this solution did not work. Anderson reiterated Pearce's comments.

Coun. Fehr told the idea of a park for the homeless to camp in was a conversation that needed further discussion.

“It shouldn't be a hands-down no,” he said.

Coun. Fehr did not put forward a motion to debate this.

Anderson said the idea of a 24/7 homeless camp would lead to the “complete collapse of the surrounding area” and he would not support it.

Council will debate Anderson's motion at council's next meeting Nov. 25.

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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