Kelowna moves to ban sidewalk sleeping 24 hours a day
'I think people should feel safe to walk up and down their sidewalks,' said city councillor
The City of Kelowna is moving to ban sleeping on the sidewalks — at any time of day.
Right now just sitting or lying on a Kelowna sidewalk is banned from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., but a new bylaw aims to make the activity — or lack of it — a ticketable offence overnight as well.
On Monday the bylaw update passed its third reading unanimously, bringing it one step closer to reality.
"I think people should feel safe to walk up and down their sidewalks without having to step onto the road," said Ryan Donn, a Kelowna city councillor.
Where to next?
But homeless advocates have concerns, noting the city is already struggling with a spike in overdoses and overflowing homeless shelters.
Inn From the Cold, a local homeless shelter, has reported turning away up to 12 people a night. Often they spend the dark hours in parks or wherever they can curl up outside.
"Where are people supposed to sleep if they're homeless? If they're going to be talking about getting people off the streets, I'd like them to have a plan about where they are going to put them," said Michelle Novakowski of the Elizabeth Fry Society.
The $50 fine for passing out on the concrete is also raising concerns.
"People that are homeless and that are sleeping on the street don't have money to pay fines," said Novakowski.
Mayor defends ban
Kelowna's mayor issued a strongly-worded letter online Tuesday, responding to media coverage of the ban.
"I want to be abundantly clear that the City of Kelowna is not targeting people sleeping on our streets with the purpose of harassing or incarcerating our most vulnerable residents," said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.
"The purpose of this bylaw is to prevent people from obstructing sidewalks and preventing accessibility for residents."
He also said while fines may be issued, he realizes, in many cases, collection is not possible or not realistic.
"What it does is create a file that can be turned over to law enforcement if the offender is involved in criminal activity. We want to ensure that downtown is a safe and welcoming place," said Basran.
The bylaw change will go into effect if it passes a fourth reading expected later this month.
With files from Jaimie Kehler