Homeless camps get green lights

Homeless camping allowed in Vernon parks if no space is available in shelters

Vernon’s homeless can take up residence in parks if other options don’t exist.

Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to suspend the parks and public places bylaw when shelter space is not available and homeless individuals turn to parks temporarily.

“If the shelters are full, there no where for these people to go,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

The city is amending its policies based on other communities where the courts ruled that the homeless could not be kicked out of parks if shelters were at capacity.

“It’s a violation of your charter or rights and freedoms,” said Clint Kanester, protective services manager.

Coun. Scott Anderson had suggested restricting camps from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. but that was shot down by his colleagues largely because individuals would have to remove their personal effects from parks every day.

“We still don’t have storage options for those seeking shelter in parks,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham of clothing and other items.

“They have very little and what they do have means something to them.”

Mayor Akbal Mund also expressed concern about what may happen if individuals are forced to abandon park camps daily.

“You’ll have people setting up camp downtown. They will be creating problems downtown because that’s where they will go,” he said.

Anderson, though, defended his calls for a specific time period for park camps such as from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“We owe it to the homeless and this takes (hours) takes care of that but we owe it to young families that want to take their children to the park,” he said.

“Our public spaces are for everyone and people should be able to use them without fear of a mess developing.”

Cunningham downplayed Anderson’s concerns.

“I go to the park and it’s a big park. There’s lots of places where you can go and feel safe,” she said, adding that social agencies will work with the homeless to make sure camps are kept clean.