Homeless camp rules possible

Homeless camp rules possible

City of Vernon staff looking at potential limits for camping in parks

There could be firm rules for Vernon’s homeless residents.

City staff have been asked to present a report on possible bylaw amendments that would only allow camping in parks until 7 a.m.

“That precludes the development of a tent city. That effectively stops it,” said Coun. Scott Anderson.

Court rulings have indicated that municipalities cannot remove the homeless from parks if shelter beds are not available.

As a result, Victoria established rules that only allow people to camp in parks until 7 a.m., meaning tents are not allowed during the day.

If such a bylaw occurs in Vernon, Anderson says it could prevent the possibility of tent cities taking hold on public land.

On Monday, council approved $81,480 to extend seasonal bylaw compliance staff from April to November as a way of addressing homeless issues.

“We have challenges with the shoulder season,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

Bylaw compliance staff continue to work with social agencies to provide assistance to the homeless.

“It’s imperative that there is a balance between enforcement and support,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Partners In Action.

“We are seeing more campers. There is a (homeless) census April 19 and we expect the numbers to be up there.”

On top of homelessness, the social agencies are dealing with opioid overdoses.

“We’ve been pushed to the limit to respond,” said Sharkey.

A Partners In Action committee is entirely focused on abandoned needles and the process involves government agencies and looking at what other cities have done.

“We definitely can’t handle this situation as a community on our own,” said Sharkey, adding that the initiative includes cleaning up needles.

“The service providers work with our street population on a major cleanup.”