Abbotsford city council passed an updated bylaw Monday that allows people to sleep overnight in parks, bringing the city in line with a B.C. Supreme Court ruling from four months ago. 

Last October the B.C. Supreme Court struck down Abbotsford's bylaws that prohibited homeless people from erecting temporary shelters and sleeping in city parks.

City council voted Monday on an amended bylaw, which will allow people to camp in parks from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says the bylaw amendment is more about process than setting a timeline, because the city has already taken steps to find housing for people sleeping in its parks since the ruling.

"Council immediately embarked on a commitment to create a "made-in-Abbotsford" response to the ruling that was in line with the city's commitment to utilizing housing first approach toward homelessness in the community," said Braun. 

Sleeping overnight or camping will still be banned in Mill Lake Park, Exhibition Park, and Civic Centre under the proposed bylaw, because those parks are considered "community-wide parks," where many functions are held, said Braun.

Housing the homeless

The city set up a temporary winter shelter on Dec. 21 and it has been running at about 93 per cent occupancy, according to Braun. 

He says almost all the beds were filled within 10 days of the shelter. He noted social workers are providing 47 people in the shelter with case management services and 14 people have been relocated to permanent housing.

Braun says the next step is finding housing for the people remaining in the long-established camp on Gladys Road.

"We will be asking our local service providers to more keenly focus their efforts on assisting any remaining campers located at Gladys on finding alternate accommodations."

Braun told CBC earlier this year it plans to remove the camp because it is not protected by the B.C. Supreme Court ruling since it's not on park land.


To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Abbotsford city council to vote on sleeping in parks bylaw.