A homeless camp is set up behind Polson Park, near the Kal Tire head office over the summer. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star file)

Bylaw responds to increased calls to deal with North Okanagan homeless

Seasonal enforcement officers had 1,568 calls, compared to 1,382 during same period in 2019

  • Nov. 21, 2020 12:00 a.m.

More calls were made this year to minimize the impact of street entrenched people on businesses and the public.

The Bylaw Compliance Seasonal Enforcement Program ran from April 27 to Nov. 1. The four members, who were out seven days a week, starting at 8 a.m. and investigated 1,568 calls. The busiest month was June with 362 calls. The seasonal staff dealt mainly with street entrenched persons target analysis (SEPTA) individuals, which made up 40 per cent of the overall bylaw files during that period. That is up from 33 per cent (1,382 SEPTA calls) in 2019.

“The seasonal staff dealt with 292 individual SEPTA persons over the course of the program. While many of these individuals were transient and only dealt with by seasonal staff on one instance, some were daily contacts dealt with throughout the entire program period,” protective services manager Darren Lees said. “While all 292 individuals were street entrenched not all were homeless.”

They also assisted RCMP with 25 of the SEPTA clients identified as subjects of criminal arrest warrants. Police attended and all identified were taken into custody.

The seasonal officers would require clearing of temporary shelters at Polson Park and other locations were packed up by 9 a.m. They also helped city operations workers to clear large amounts of rubbish and abandoned camp debris from sidewalks and boulevards throughout the city.

Working closely with the RCMP, the seasonal bylaw staff focused on Polson, Becker and Linear parks.

They also attended prohibited temporary shelter locations such as the Vernon Recreation Complex and Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre grounds. Officers conducted additional patrols of the area due to safety and vandalism concerns from while shelter services were located at the Vernon Curling Club.

READ MORE: Vernon temporary homeless shelter moves to warehouse off 25th Avenue

But they were also there to help. Working closely with the street entrenched individuals, the officers made sure they were aware of and had access to various community resources available through local social service providers.

“Although calls for service to bylaw compliance continue to rise steadily year over year, the availability of the additional seasonal staff members permitted bylaw compliance to provide a more proactive response to our community’s concerns, manage the workload of increasing calls for service from the public and mitigate the impact of the street entrenched on the community,” Lees said.

READ MORE: 51 per cent of Vernon bylaw calls related to street entrenched population


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