Shelter bylaw enforced

Bylaw compliance officers have started enforcing a bylaw that requires temporary shelters in Vernon parks to be dismantled between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Fines will be issued if camping rules are ignored in Vernon parks.

Bylaw compliance officers have started enforcing a bylaw that requires temporary shelters in parks to be dismantled between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

“There was a week of information being passed out and on Monday, it was the first day of soft enforcement. We were handing out warnings,” said Al Harrison, acting senior bylaw officer.

“There was virtually no resistance and people understood what they have to do (dismantle shelters). In some cases, time got away on them.”

City staff also removed any abandoned camps in Polson Park Monday.

Anyone who has been issued a warning will now face the full extent of the bylaw if they dismantled their shelter between the designated hours.

The initial fine is $50 and any repeat offences could lead to a maximum of $100.

“We have no direction to remove people or tents,” said Harrison.

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

“I’m hoping this will discourage people from staying there at all,” said Coun. Scott Anderson.

“With the bylaw, if it’s enforced, it will be impossible to establish a tent city.”

And to address any public perception over safety, the city is proceeding with an interim strategy for Polson Park, including playground improvements, a two-year pilot program that will allow dogs on leash, enhancing bylaw compliance staff and trimming vegetation along the boardwalk.