British Columbia

Penticton residents stage sidewalk sit-in to protest new bylaw

A new Penticton bylaw makes it an offence to either sit of lie down on some sidewalks. 'It's definitely not going to solve [homelessness] with a bylaw like this,' says activist Chelsea Terry.

New Penticton bylaw makes it an offence to either sit or lie down on some sidewalks

A small group of people sat down on a sidewalk in Penticton during the city's weekly market to protest a new bylaw, which can fine people $100 for sitting or lying on some sidewalks. (Tom Popyk)

A group of Penticton residents staged a sit-in on a downtown sidewalk Saturday to mark their disagreement with a new bylaw change which the city says is aimed at improving safety in the city.

This week, city council passed a controversial amendment to a bylaw that makes it an offence to either sit or lie down on certain sidewalks in the core during spring and summer.

Councillors and Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said the bylaw is aimed at addressing homelessness and to ensure some business owners and residents don't feel intimidated by homeless people.

Vassilaki says homeless people will still have the option of sitting on benches downtown.

People who violate the bylaw can be fined $100.

On Saturday, resident Chelsea Terry organized a sit-in in the downtown core to protest the bylaw.

"It's definitely not going to solve [homlessness] with a bylaw like this," Terry said.

She says the bylaw change hurts Penticton's image, and that council has sensationalized the safety issue in the downtown core to support its decision.

Chelsea Terry organized a sit-in for people in Penticton on Saturday May 25, 2019 to protest a bylaw change that aims to prevent people from sitting on certain sidewalks. (Tom Popyk)

'Not a just decision'

"It's not a just decision," she said, adding that she believes council faced too much pressure from area businesses to implement the change.

"They're not the only voice," she said.

A homeless man who identified himself as Kevin said Saturday he has been coming to the city for the past four years to work as a fruit picker, but says with the new bylaw, he won't be returning.

"They don't want homelessness in their backyard, I guess," he said.

A homeless man who identified himself as Kevin sits on a sidewalk in Pencticton on Saturday, May 25, 2019. He's been coming to the city for the past four years to work as a fruit picker, but says with the new bylaw he won't be returning. (Tom Popyk)

Meanwhile, Terry says she hopes the protest will foster more discussion around the issue of homelessness and other ways to help.

The bylaw amendment targets fewer than 2.5 per cent of sidewalks in the city.

Vassilaki says homeless people will still have the option of sitting on benches downtown.

With files from Tom Popyk

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