The City of Vernon is getting tougher on homeless residents, proceeding with time limits for when they can camp in Polson Park.
The residents will have to take down their overnight shelters from 9 am to 9 pm daily, with enforcement by bylaws and RCMP.
City staff estimate Vernon has about 39 homeless residents, up 5 to 10% from last year.
Mayor Akbal Mund recently toured the park and talked to some of the residents.
He says most of them just want a place to sleep at night.
“What we don’t want to create is, we have communities surrounding us, Kelowna and Kamloops major communities who have services like us, who have these bylaws already in effect, so what could happen is, you could become a draw.”
It was an about face from two weeks ago when council voted 6-1 not to install time limits.
“We didn’t have any information. We hadn’t talked to the RCMP. It was just something that was brought out of the woodwork, and someone said ‘let’s do this,'” says Mund. “We needed to get all the rules and regulations in place before we manage this.”
Councillor Scott Anderson says it’s worked in other cities.
“If you have to pick up and leave every morning, you’re not going to have that situation, so that’s really what this bylaw is. It’s a preventive bylaw,” says Anderson.
Bob Spiers was one of two councillors to vote against the time limits, saying it could create more problems.
“What I see happening is the people that are camping, sure they will de-camp and take all their stuff, and move right onto a park bench. It’s not going to make it any safer or more friendly for the people who occupy the park,” Spiers tells Kiss FM.
Councillor Juliette Cunningham also voted against it.
She doesn’t think homelessness in the park is a major issue, and she would like more action to lobby the BC government for more housing and shelter funding.
“I was there Sunday with my 89 year old mother and my family and we had a great time. At no time did we feel threatened or uncomfortable. Families were there enjoying the park. I think were highlighting something that isn’t as significant as some would like to portray it,” says Cunningham.
Cunningham issued a notice of motion to talk about a poverty reduction strategy for the city at council’s next meeting July 17.
Councillor Catherine Lord issued notice of motion to develop a strong strategy to lobby senior governments for housing/shelter funding.