A police officer brings his bike to a halt as he does a double take on the people who squat along Leon Avenue during one of their routine street checks. (David Venn - Capital News)

Okanagan homeless claim they are assaulted ‘regularly’ by police, public

Everyone has their ‘breaking point’: bylaw manager David Gazely

Part four of a five-part series on the homeless and how the stigma associated with being homeless directly affects the relationships between authorities, public space and themselves.

People who experience homelessness claim they are assaulted and verbally abused by authorities and even pedestrians.

Harold Smoke, a man with lived experience of homelessness, said it happens almost daily from RCMP and City of Kelowna bylaw officers.

“(Authorities) literally tease them and say, ‘Oh I’m going home to my bed tonight, where are you staying?’ ” said Smoke, who is now housed. “How do you deal with that?”

Kelowna bylaw stated there have been rumours of assaults taking place, but “there (has been) no documented criminal charges ever laid by the police against one of our bylaw officers for assaulting a homeless person,” according to bylaw department manager David Gazely.

Gazely said often bylaw officers are subjected to assault and abuse by people who experience homelessness, citing that officers are often spat at, pushed and had their vehicles damaged.

According to Gazely, officers also have found homemade weapons, bear spray, machetes and axes in shopping carts.

“Everyone is different in their tolerance level and how much they can actually take in terms of what their breaking point may be,” Gazely said.

“I strongly believe that our officers maintain their composure as best they can under the circumstances and only react in a defensive manner if they have reason to believe they are at risk of personal bodily harm.”

READ MORE: Part 1: From homeless to housed: A Kelowna woman’s journey

Kelowna RCMP did not deny or confirm that physical or verbal assaults do occur.

“If someone has concerns about the manner in which they were treated by any officer of the RCMP, there are complaint processes in place through which they can bring forward their concerns,” stated Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.

However, those who claim to have been assaulted and are experiencing homelessness, often do not bother trying the formal process.

“Who are they going to believe — a homeless person? A homeless drug addict sleeping in a park…possible overdose?” said Jared Charles Dayley, a 24-year-old man who now lives in Cornerstone shelter.

According to those interviewed who experience homelessness, they believe the system is pitted against them and if they were to file a complaint, it would be apt to fail.

This, Dayley claimed, does not only adhere to reporting incidents of assault from authorities; it also includes ordinary citizens.

The idea that Kelowna residents are to blame for harassing people who experience homelessness is something that Cornerstone case manager and a member of Journey Home’s lived experience group James Smith would agree with, saying it is a bigger issue than people realize and that there are some “pretty scary stories out there.”

“Unfortunately, the way most of society looks at people that are living on the street is that they are second rate,” Smith said.

“So if they are getting beat up by the cops, it doesn’t matter (because) they’re just homeless drug addicts.”

READ MORE: Part 2: We don’t deserve to sit beside ‘normal people’: Kelowna homeless

READ MORE: Part 3: Kelowna Homeless fight for freedom of possessions, clash with bylaw

“Some have said they have never been beaten up, spit on and treated so badly,” said Wanda MacKinnon, a member of the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness.

“And it seems to be OK to do that to a homeless person here.”



David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lost Langley couple rescued from James Lake, near Kelowna

The rescue occurred Saturday, July 11

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Column: One parenting book certainly doesn’t fit all

Like the fingerprints they are born with – each child is different.… Continue reading

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Vernon Mounties share video of cyclist hit by vehicle, assaulted

Police release short video clip of cyclist struck by SUV in March 2020, and photos of suspects

Missing woman last seen in Lumby

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP seek public’s help in locating 32-year-old woman

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Interior Health identifies more locations with COVID-19 exposure in Kelowna

Anyone who participated in events in the Kelowna downtown and waterfront area between June 25 and July 6 should monitor closely for symptoms

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Most Read