Kelowna bylaw makes sleeping in the street overnight illegal
Published Tuesday, November 29, 2016 1:28PM PST
The City of Kelowna has revamped its bylaw against lying on sidewalks during the day, to make it illegal 24-7.
The city of approximately 127,500 is dealing with an influx of homelessness, with more people needing to use shelters than there are beds.
The most recent count from the Central Okanagan Foundation, conducted in February, found at least 233 people were homeless, and another 273 were living in temporary housing.
But a 2015 report from Employment and Social Development Canada found there were only 90 shelter beds available in Kelowna.
"We're full every night, and we're turning people away every night," said Jan Shulz, executive director of a shelter called Inn from the Cold.
"It's very hard, especially knowing that they are going to be outside for the night."
With nowhere else to go, the city's homeless end up sleeping on downtown sidewalks. But now, those caught sleeping outdoors overnight face a $50 fine.
The city already had a bylaw in place against lying on the sidewalks, but the rules only applied during the day, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. But on Monday, council voted in favour of making the bylaw apply 24 hours a day.
"We currently couldn't address issues where people were tripping over individuals that may have been on a sidewalk during those hours," Kelowna's bylaw services manager, Greg Wise, said.
The city also said that there are facilities in place so that no one needs to be sleeping in the street, but Randy Benson from the Kelowna Gospel Mission said not everyone feels comfortable in shelters.
"A lot of people may choose not to use the shelter because they want to stay outside and do their own thing," he said.
Some members of the city's homeless community said the move will make them criminals, especially when shelters like Inn from the Cold are full.
"That's what it is. I mean, you can't stay in the park. You can't stay at the beach. You can't stay on the street," Mike Teddiman said.
"We're already having a hard time getting by in life, and now you're going to take away what little bit of shelter we might have and not let us be there, and then plus make us pay a fine on top of it?" Stephon McKay said.
"I know it's loitering to a certain extent, but where else are we going to go?" another asked.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Kent Molgat