Letter: Penticton bylaw is not meant to penalize the homeless

Penticton city councillor offers his view of the Good Neighbour bylaw

The Good Neighbour bylaw has not been introduced to penalize the homeless and have them move out of the downtown—that was never the intent.

If it was, I would have not voted in favour of the bylaw. The only purpose of the bylaw is to allow everyone to have the right to use the sidewalks freely without having to step around or over some persons legs or tripping over their dog.

They are simply being asked to use the benches in the downtown as their resting place and in their appealing for loose change. The bylaw is therefore simply asking them to respect persons wanting to use the sidewalk freely without obstruction—especially the disabled and senior persons who have difficulty walking and in some cases need a the use of a mobile powered unit.

All persons using the sidewalks have the right to an unrestricted right of way.

Rest assured, any persons suffering injuries after tripping over any person sitting or lying across a city sidewalk would undoubtably file for damages against the city.

During discussion at the introduction of the bylaw I appealed for the bylaw officers to use discretion when approaching a homeless person who is in violation of the Good Neighbour bylaw. Knowing the homeless don’t have funds to pay $100 fine, I suggested if some form of community service could be the penalty.

Discretion by the bylaw officers is essential when dealing with the less fortunate in the enforcement of this bylaw. Just in the last three years the city has invested over $10-million in the reconstruction of the roads and sidewalks in the 100, 200 and the 300 blocks of Main Street, these millions were all paid for by the businesses within the area of downtown along with all residential property owners throughout the city.

The past council and the present council plus city management have all been working with the provincial government to provide housing for the homeless within the city.

Two older motels have been converted into accommodation for the homeless, plus a new 100-room apartment block, still under construction, is being built to accommodate just the homeless in our city.

In closing, I do hope anyone reading this letter can appreciate that city councillors are responsible for people’s safety and their right to use the property they have paid for without being obstructed, city sidewalks and roads.

I thank you for giving some thought ask to why this bylaw has been brought forward, it was certainly not the intent to penalize the homeless.

Jake Kimberley

City councillor

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