Warmer weather brings homeless back to Penticton's Esplanade - InfoNews

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Warmer weather brings homeless back to Penticton's Esplanade

Gabriel is a 34 year old homeless man who quietly makes his home on the Esplanade in Penticton.
April 25, 2019 - 6:45 PM

PENTICTON - The leaf buds are breaking, the weather is getting warmer and Penticton’s Esplanade lands are once again becoming inhabited by the homeless looking for a place to camp in the city.

Penticton bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert says a recent clean up of the steep hillside above Penticton Yacht Club and the tennis courts yielded “everything you could think of” in terms of discarded objects.

“We’re trying to ensure it doesn’t get too big or out of control,” she says.

Bylaw officers are now monitoring the area to ensure it's safe and clean. The city is keeping tabs on homeless numbers in the area to ensure they aren’t harbouring potentially dangerous items like propane tanks or electrical devices.

She says some of the transients find camping spots so deep in the Esplanade, they aren’t accessible in an emergency.

“We found one person quite a ways in and managed to get him out and in a shelter,” Siebert says.

Bylaw officers are also making lists for those requiring housing so they will be looked after when the city’s multiple social housing projects currently under construction are completed.

“The numbers we are seeing are pretty much par for the course for this time of year. Our monitoring program will be ongoing through the summer. The last thing we want is to have the area turn into a tent city,” Siebert says.

Penticton's Esplanade lands occupy a steep hillside behind the city's yacht club and tennis courts.
Penticton's Esplanade lands occupy a steep hillside behind the city's yacht club and tennis courts.
Image Credit: Google Maps/ street view

The Esplanade seemed to be nearly empty of people earlier this week.

Gabriel, a 34-year-old man who says he’s homeless and has a drug problem, has set up a camp of sorts near the beach below the Esplanade.

“I come here because it's a nice place. I don’t do needles and I try to keep it clean,” he says.

If there is such thing as a model transient, Gabriel could fit the bill. He’s pleasant, open and friendly and his campsite is clean.

“The cops don’t bother me,” he says, adding city bylaw officers come around and seem to understand the situation, as do the police.

Gabriel says other transients often look rough, but they aren’t a threat.

“They’ve just had a rough time. They don’t always help themselves by the way they dress. I like sports, so I dress in sports gear. Some people look scary because they haven’t slept in days,” he says, but adds, "there are some bad people around."

He says he’s seen about a half dozen transients frequenting the Esplanade area recently.

Gabriel says the problem in Penticton is there is no shelter, or at least, not enough, and what is available is priced out of reach.

“In Quebec, I can rent a room for $200. Here it’s $700,” he says.

He’s lived between Keremeos and Penticton for the past three years, and has been in the west for six years.

He says his issue has been alcohol, but now it’s speed.

“It’s just a bad habit. I’m going into rehab on Friday. It’s not like I like using,” he says.

“I don’t have disabilities, I don’t have mental issues, but I can’t work right now because I can’t sleep. I have to keep an eye on my things, people will even steal your dirty clothes,” he says.

Gabriel survives on welfare cheques and soup kitchens. He says he does a little work "here and there" as well.

“I like being away from the public eye,” he says of his refuge in the Esplanade.

He tries to stay away from his friends, who are all on drugs too.

“A lot of them don’t want to change,” he says.

Gabriel says he gets annoyed at the treatment he receives on Penticton streets sometimes.

“There’s ignorance. I’ll be walking down the street and say ‘hi’ to someone, and they don’t answer me,” he says.

"I figure they are the ones with the problem, if they are that scared," he says. "We’re human, too.”

The modular construction of the province's social housing project on Winnipeg Street in Penticton is complete, with crews now installing windows and doors. Ministry of Housing's Melanie Kilpatrick says the units should be ready for occupancy this August.
The modular construction of the province's social housing project on Winnipeg Street in Penticton is complete, with crews now installing windows and doors. Ministry of Housing's Melanie Kilpatrick says the units should be ready for occupancy this August.

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