KAMLOOPS – Winter is coming. While we groan a little, pull out the hats and scarves and put winter tires on the car, the homeless population in Kamloops faces considerably more challenges.
“Our bylaw says you can set up a tent at 10 o’clock at night and then you need to take it down by eight o’clock the next morning. The problem with that is it works in the summer but in the winter it takes you a day or two to get your camp winterized and if you had to take it down every day it’s just not going to work,” Ken Salter of ASK Wellness says.
Salter says bylaw will inevitably break up more camps during the winter; as this happens every winter.
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, bylaw broke up a large camp adjacent to Pioneer Park. Seven to eight campers were removed and what they couldn’t carry out was confiscated by bylaw officers.
“They’ll just scatter their camps out in different places,” Salter explains of the displaced campers.
Salter admits the situation is a cycle. Bylaw break up the same camp several times.
He also says homeless people, with few resources to make it through the winter, are being constantly stripped of their belongings.
“If the person who owned the (belongings) comes to me and says ‘hey, bylaw took all my stuff’ I can go and get it back for them,” Salter says, adding that only happens about a quarter of the time.
He says bylaw used to throw out all the seized property right away but Ask Wellness has convinced them to hang on to it for a couple weeks.
The solution to the homeless question is not simple. Salter says Kamloops needs more affordable housing, but most who of those who choose to be housed are already.
“A lot of them are not interested in housing. They don’t want to have a landlord they have to answer to, they don’t want a mailbox full of bills,” Salter says. He figures about 90 per cent of those sleeping rough want to be out there.
“We could designate a place where they were allowed to camp. We broached it with the city years ago and it was a no go. They wouldn’t do it because of liability issues,” Salter says. He thinks a small park in Mission Flats would be perfect, or city owned warehouses in the same area that are currently vacant.
“You couldn’t set up a camp like that without having some kind of 24-hour supervision,” he says, admitting no one would likely volunteer to fund that kind of project.
“There are lots of possibilities, there's just no will to do it,” he says.
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