No Leeway for Homeless Camping in Penticton – Keremeos Review

The City of Penticton continues to actively address homeless encampments when they arise, unlike some other communities in the province.

In an update from the Safety and Security Advisory Committee on May 2, Director of Development Services Blake Laven said the city would continue to act on the camps when they show up to clean them up and push if possible to get them into shelters and accommodation.

“There’s not a lot of tolerance for encampments inside municipal boundaries, but it’s a real challenge and it takes a long time,” Laven said. “It’s a constant battle, and sometimes it’s like a mole swipe where you clear one area and it appears in another area.”

He said Penticton will not take the passive approach to allowing homeless camps to take root in parks and spaces like Victoria, Maple Ridge, Prince George and Vancouver.

“Once they put down roots, people lived there for months or even years, and it’s their home and people want to protect their home and they fight to keep those places,” Laven said. “This approach where municipalities tacitly authorize [encampments]providing services and monitoring them has been a real challenge, I think, for the communities that have taken on this role. »

He also pointed to the Kelowna approach as a more successful version, where they allowed camping on a designated park which is emptied each morning and maintained security on site. He noted that this allows Kelowna bylaws and the RCMP to be much stricter on individual homeless campers elsewhere in the community, but it comes at a high cost, including labor.

“Every morning they come in and wake everyone up, evacuate everyone. Then they go in and clean up the site and start the night again,” Laven said. “I think the last quote we got was $30,000 a month.”

Along with cleanliness and potential drug use issues, including increased overdoses, Laven also highlighted how encampments can bring a criminal element into play, with some members of these communities having pending warrants or having left prison. other communities to seek refuge elsewhere.

Penticton’s large amount of accommodation space was cited as a reason why the community did not have to deal with a single large tent city like some other municipalities, as well as the amount of serviced housing support that the community has built. When camps appear, a range of services are called in, and among them are community safety officers who are able to assess campers and relay their information to housing services.

“We had a very quick response from the RCMP and primarily our regulations team when these encampments were discovered,” Laven said.

Since the closure of the Victory Church shelter downtown, an encampment has appeared in Ellis Creek as the homeless population moved to the Compass Court shelter near Industrial Avenue and Main Street. Other hotspots include the camp that was cleared past the marina on Okanagan Lake. The city is aware of the stretches along Highway 97 where jurisdictional issues make cleanup more difficult and require provincial government intervention.

The city also has a family reunification fund to help those who are also looking to return to their families in other communities.

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