A police officer brings his bike to a halt as he does a double take on the people who squat along Leon Avenue during one of their routine street checks. (David Venn - Capital News)

Okanagan homeless claim they are assaulted ‘regularly’ by police, public

Everyone has their ‘breaking point’: bylaw manager David Gazely

Part four of a five-part series on the homeless and how the stigma associated with being homeless directly affects the relationships between authorities, public space and themselves.

People who experience homelessness claim they are assaulted and verbally abused by authorities and even pedestrians.

Harold Smoke, a man with lived experience of homelessness, said it happens almost daily from RCMP and City of Kelowna bylaw officers.

“(Authorities) literally tease them and say, ‘Oh I’m going home to my bed tonight, where are you staying?’ ” said Smoke, who is now housed. “How do you deal with that?”

Kelowna bylaw stated there have been rumours of assaults taking place, but “there (has been) no documented criminal charges ever laid by the police against one of our bylaw officers for assaulting a homeless person,” according to bylaw department manager David Gazely.

Gazely said often bylaw officers are subjected to assault and abuse by people who experience homelessness, citing that officers are often spat at, pushed and had their vehicles damaged.

According to Gazely, officers also have found homemade weapons, bear spray, machetes and axes in shopping carts.

“Everyone is different in their tolerance level and how much they can actually take in terms of what their breaking point may be,” Gazely said.

“I strongly believe that our officers maintain their composure as best they can under the circumstances and only react in a defensive manner if they have reason to believe they are at risk of personal bodily harm.”

READ MORE: Part 1: From homeless to housed: A Kelowna woman’s journey

Kelowna RCMP did not deny or confirm that physical or verbal assaults do occur.

“If someone has concerns about the manner in which they were treated by any officer of the RCMP, there are complaint processes in place through which they can bring forward their concerns,” stated Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.

However, those who claim to have been assaulted and are experiencing homelessness, often do not bother trying the formal process.

“Who are they going to believe — a homeless person? A homeless drug addict sleeping in a park…possible overdose?” said Jared Charles Dayley, a 24-year-old man who now lives in Cornerstone shelter.

According to those interviewed who experience homelessness, they believe the system is pitted against them and if they were to file a complaint, it would be apt to fail.

This, Dayley claimed, does not only adhere to reporting incidents of assault from authorities; it also includes ordinary citizens.

The idea that Kelowna residents are to blame for harassing people who experience homelessness is something that Cornerstone case manager and a member of Journey Home’s lived experience group James Smith would agree with, saying it is a bigger issue than people realize and that there are some “pretty scary stories out there.”

“Unfortunately, the way most of society looks at people that are living on the street is that they are second rate,” Smith said.

“So if they are getting beat up by the cops, it doesn’t matter (because) they’re just homeless drug addicts.”

READ MORE: Part 2: We don’t deserve to sit beside ‘normal people’: Kelowna homeless

READ MORE: Part 3: Kelowna Homeless fight for freedom of possessions, clash with bylaw

“Some have said they have never been beaten up, spit on and treated so badly,” said Wanda MacKinnon, a member of the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness.

“And it seems to be OK to do that to a homeless person here.”



David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter

Just Posted

Workshops, networking events designed for Shuswap women entrepreneurs on the way

Tsuts’weye project holds successful roundtables where valuable information gathered

‘She was awesome’: Malakwa baker leaves U.S. holiday show

‘There are Christmas miracles, look at me’

Salmon Arm ranked 7th best place to work in B.C. for 2020

Categories reflecting quality of life influence ranking

School District #83 board approves pay increase for trustees

Decision reflects policy, changes in BC Consumer Price Index

South Shuswap health clinic welcomes first doctor

Dr. Jack Beech to do Saturday walk-in clinic at Copper Island Health and Wellness Centre.

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

Weak link in Sagmoen trial, defence says

Counsel questions whether search warrant police executed was obtained on reasonable grounds

Salmon Arm Work BC office hosts grand reopening

Services available at the office will remain similar to past offerings

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

North Okanagan MP says throne speech lacked specifics

‘Trudeau government presented a vague agenda,’: MP Mel Arnold

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Independent Investigations Office seeks witnesses following arrest in Penticton

The male resisted arrest at approximately 8:40 a.m. and sustained a head injury

Most Read