The City of Penticton isn’t letting up on their campaign to reduce street issues in the city.
“We vowed that we would not allow what happened last summer to happen again this year,” said Peter Weeber, Penticton’s chief administrative officer.
Weeber points out that a lot of what happens around the city is not against the law. It might be against the law to steal a shopping cart, but not to carry your belongings around with you.
“Even though they are not committing a crime, they do need to move along,” Weeber said.
He also stresses that problems at night continue into the day, resulting in some of the city’s homeless being so tired they are sleeping in the parks in the daytime.
“A lot of things happen at night that aren’t good. They’re targets, especially females,” said Weeber as he showed council images of people sleeping on the streets, surrounded by their belongings.
“What you see on the streets when you pay attention is quite sad and tragic,” said Weeber, who explains that it’s the behaviours that are being targeted, not the people.
Weeber had lots of images to show council, including both children and others using Gyro Park and the bandshell.
“People take over the bandshell, take over the picnic tables and no one gets to use the park except these people,” he said. “The reality is folks are continuing to do things that are unacceptable. Drinking, open drug use, etc.
“The new normal is a term we’ve used, where people feel so comfortable they are willing to open a beer or roll a joint.”
Weeber also warned that there are signs the problem has potential to grow.
“Slowly, we are starting to see more tent encampments around the city,” said Weeber, adding that the bylaw department says there are six groups they are engaging with regularly.
If something isn’t done to provide more housing, he said, the current situation is just a snapshot of what is to come.
The solution isn’t really enforcement, according to Weeber, who said the increased bylaw and RCMP presence has been helping, as have other factors, like increased lighting.
“The solution is housing,” he said outlying some of the upcoming and new housing, like Compass Court. But it will still be some time before other housing is built and opened.
“There is a gap. What do you do with the people that are on the streets now?” asked Weeber.
Cary Schneiderat, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, praised the efforts of the city and the working group that includes the RCMP and Downtown Penticton Association, adding that the city needs to stay the course.
“We’re just really happy to see the way it is going,” said Schneiderat.
Coun. Judy Sentes said the city has taken a lot of criticism for not taking action, explaining that this kind of work takes time to bring up to speed.
“The city is doing something, we are active. I hope that those who are convinced nothing is happening will pay attention to the report,” said Sentes “We are actively engaged, we have set the standard high.
“This city is not standing still.”
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News