In 2022, City of Salmon Arm’s bylaw enforcement responded to close to double the number of incident reports regarding encampments for people living rough as it did for traffic or parking complaints.
Topping the number of incidents tallied was 222 for ‘homeless encampments,’ 128 for traffic/parking complaints, 106 for business licences, 79 for unkempt property, and the rest, each tallying 30 incidents or less, included such categories as noise complaints, snow removal or animal control.
Maurice Roy, manager of permits and licensing, presented the 2022 year-end report to council Jan. 23.
He said it was a busy year and expressed kudos to Debbie Wood, one of the city’s bylaw enforcement officers, for handling a large workload for a good portion of the summer after one employee left.
Roy noted about $11,400 was spent in 2022 on remediation costs of encampments, costs that were incurred by the city’s public works department which was asked to help. Encampments requiring such ‘environmental remediation’ included three in February, four in March, three in April, six in May, five in July, one in August, one in September, one in October and one in December.
Roy said bylaw enforcement spent nearly 200 hours during the year on patrols for encampments.
“When doing our morning rounds, we spent 190 hours moving people along where we could, doing health checks and, in the winter, making sure we didn’t have hypothermia cases and things like that.”
Along with patrols, 225 hours were spent on enforcement: “Preventing entrenchments, actually moving people along or encouraging them to move along, clean-up time and responding to direct complaints regarding displaced persons (people without homes) in encampments,” he said.
Roy pointed out that few municipal tickets were issued in 2022, other than parking tickets.
“I think this really reflects… how we really strive for that voluntary compliance rather than the hard nose, in-your-face kind of enforcement.”
The total number of parking tickets issued in 2022 was 856, down from 1,195 in 2021. Top spot for tickets was the Ross Street Plaza, followed by Hudson Avenue NE – between the post office and McGuire Lake, with the Inner Core parking lot coming in third. Roy said the lower number of tickets issued reflects the staff shortage over the summer.
“We had to make a choice what was a priority for us,” said Roy. “Through senior staff, and discussions with us, we decided the encampments and the displaced were definitely our priority, so you can see we did not spend as much time with parking enforcement here.”
In terms of hours spent, the top three were 225 hours on encampments, 189 on administrative duties and 83 on parking enforcement.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond thanked bylaw staff for their work, as did other members of council. She said it’s important to point out, when council and staff talk about incidents and issues, especially in relation to encampments, it doesn’t mean they are confrontational incidents.
“I think our bylaw team has been especially kind and collaborative, building relationships, explaining things as they are, trying to build trust, making sure people are staying safe.”
Coun. Tim Lavery also recognized it’s “tough, tough work” that bylaw enforcement does.
Coun. Kevin Flynn emphasized the city’s bylaw enforcement is working hard on issues that are actually the mandate of the provincial and federal governments, while the city is not provided tax dollars to do it. Although Mayor Alan Harrison asked him to stick to comments about the report, Flynn reiterated: “This speaks to how poorly other levels of government are dealing with their mandates and it’s spilling over into ours.”
Harrison also expressed appreciation for bylaw staff.
“I’m always impressed when I come around and talk to our bylaw officers, with the approach they take with our displaced people. I know that they know that establishing a relationship with those people makes it easier when we have to enforce bylaw…
“We have opened an evening shelter now and our intention is to move the campers from their spot,” Harrison remarked.
He asked if staff have a deadline set for the tenters (across from the Salvation Army building) to move.
Roy said he would need direction from senior staff or council.
“I think the process is good, I think we may get to that spot. I’ll leave that for discussions with the chief administrative officer,” Harrison said.
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