Residents will soon be ticketed for sitting or laying on the sidewalk in certain areas of Penticton’s downtown.
At the regular council meeting on May 21, council gave third reading to an amendment to the Good Neighbour Bylaw to include sitting or lying down on the sidewalk as an obstruction to businesses located in the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Ellis Street, Main Street and Martin Street. These changes to the bylaw will only be in effect from May 1 to Sept. 30, as was recommended by the city’s legal team.
According to Tina Siebert, Penticton’s bylaw supervisor, the city has recently received an increase in complaints about social issues that are not necessarily criminal. These bylaw changes will affect 2.4 per cent of the city’s sidewalks.
“If we’re asking anybody to not be sitting or laying on our streets, I sure wish we had somewhere for them to go. I don’t think we’re suggesting an area that is somewhere for them to be instead,” said Coun. Campbell Watt. “It just feels like we’re pushing an element out. I’m not very comfortable with it.”
Coun. Jake Kimberley said this bylaw does not push the vulnerable out of the downtown but makes them “not sit on the sidewalk and block it because residents want to use it.” Instead, Kimberley suggested these individuals could panhandle from or sit and lay down on the city’s benches.
Siebert said the city is also looking into storage opportunities for homeless individuals’ shopping carts.
Kristine Shepherd, the community organizer for Monday Night Dinners in Nanaimo Square, believes these bylaw changes are discriminatory against the city’s homeless population.
“It is targeting certain people. It’s not targeting folk just having a rest. All of these little things that they’re trying to implement like leasing sidewalk space and no sitting or laying on sidewalks, it’s obvious that they’re targeting the less fortunate,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd received a notification from the city on May 16 that she would need to relocate her dinner program to a private property or church because Petrasek Bakery, located at 301 Main St., signed a lease that day which included the sidewalk outside. It was explained that the owners intend to build a patio for their customers in the space the dinners currently use once a week.
“We have no ill will towards the bakery that wants to put up their licensed patio in Nanaimo Square. I don’t even think that those people know what’s going on,” said Shepherd. “They’re just trying to make a go of it and we can share the square. I just want people to understand that it’s not their fault. I can’t wait to have a tasty beverage on their patio and a croissant.”
Shepherd said that at a May 20 dinner, volunteers explained the pending bylaw changes to those who attended. She said these people were not surprised as they “already feel like they are a prime target for the city.”
Sunrise Pharmacy, located at 749 Main St., has offered its exterior property as the new space for the Monday Night Dinners beginning June 3. Shepherd said the owners offer a free pancake breakfast every weekend, so many of the less fortunate are already aware of the space.
Rather than spending time on bylaw changes, Shepherd said she would prefer to see the city working on implementing safe consumption sites and better access to rehabilitation and services.
“We need less of this (Not In My Backyard) attitude. I think that the city and the (Downtown Penticton Association) very much feed our citizens this narrative of fear and I’d like to see that stop as well,” said Shepherd.
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