Current Conditions

Cloudy
5.2°C

Vernon homeless camp shrinking as City steps up enforcement of new bylaw

Campers are packing their belongings as the City beings enforcement of a new bylaw, however many items including bikes, mattresses and tents remain in the park Aug. 21, 2017.
August 21, 2017 - 5:00 PM

VERNON - A large homeless camp in Vernon is clearing out as officials begin enforcing new restrictions on camping in public parks.

Last week, Vernon council approved a series of bylaw amendments that affect where, when and how a homeless person can set up camp on city-owned land. The new rules mean that campers must dismantle their shelters during the daytime, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Posters went up last week explaining the new rules and today, Aug. 21, the City began moving in heavy equipment for cleanup.

These posters show what an acceptable temporary structure looks like.
These posters show what an acceptable temporary structure looks like.

By about 1 p.m. on Monday, there were only a handful of individuals in the boardwalk area at the back of Polson Park. Previously, roughly 39 people were camped out there, according to Vernon bylaw. Some unofficial reports from campers indicated as many as 60 people were sheltering there.

Numerous tents, mattresses, bikes and other belongings remain in the wooded areas lining the boardwalk. One young man who was going through a box of items said authorities had been through earlier in the day but told iNFOnews.ca he was "not interested" in talking. Another woman organizing piles of belongings appeared overwhelmed and said this was everything she had. 

The homeless camp at Polson Park is emptying out as enforcement of the new parks and public spaces bylaw begins.
The homeless camp at Polson Park is emptying out as enforcement of the new parks and public spaces bylaw begins.

The path itself is closed while the city uses heavy machinery to clean up the area.

According to the City, the trail is expected to reopen later Monday afternoon, but will likely be closed again on Tuesday for continued clean-up.

“The homeless campers have been very cooperative and understand the new bylaw. It is difficult for many of them because they need to transport all of their belongings,” the City said Monday in a written statement.

The City is currently in the process of cleaning up items that were not been removed by campers.
The City is currently in the process of cleaning up items that were not been removed by campers.

The Supreme Court of B.C. has ruled that municipalities are legally required to allow homeless individuals to sleep overnight in public spaces when there are not enough available shelter beds.

“While overnight camping for people without homes is a legally protected right when shelters are full, the bylaw will prevent permanent and semi-permanent shelters from being established in public spaces such as Polson Park,” Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund said in an earlier media release. “Homeless individuals can continue to use the park and other public spaces during the day just like any other member of the public as long as they are abiding by the law.”

The City of Vernon is appealing to senior levels of government to respond to the housing and homelessness crisis.

Read more stories about the ongoing issue of homelessness in Vernon here. 

The boardwalk trail is closed while the City uses heavy machinery to clear the area.
The boardwalk trail is closed while the City uses heavy machinery to clear the area.

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.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
InfoTel News Ltd

  • Popular kelowna News
  • Comments
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile