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Penticton cleaning up remote homeless camp on shores of Okanagan Lake

The lake is rising and there is a concern debris from the camp could end up in the water

The City of Penticton has started a major clean-up of a remote transient camp on the shores of Okanagan Lake.

“The camp is a far way out. With the lake rising and items very close to the water we had a concern the debris would end up in the lake,” said city bylaw services manager Tina Mercier.

The camp is nearly two kilometres northeast of the Penticton Marina and the tennis courts. It has been a popular camping spot for people experiencing homelessness for years.

The city has been accessing the beach camp for clean-up using a boat and ATV, bringing in large bins to load up the left-behind junk and materials. The clean-up will take a while, according to Mercier.

Despite the camp being nearly two km away, the campers still managed to hike in several mattresses and a recliner chair, said Mercier.

The city first went to the beach on March 30, for an initial clean-up and to give the campers notice.

Six to eight campers are living on the beach who the city is trying to find housing.

“They are cooperative and have been given tons of notice about the situation,” said Mercier.

From an emergency response perspective, bylaw services have concerns about people overdosing and being too far away to get help, as well as fire and other safety issues.

“First responders would not be able to get to them in time which puts them at risk,” said Mercier. “There are a lot of flammable items there including a lot of propane tanks and heaters being used inside the shelters.

“A structure burned down there recently. Once we get further into spring, it becomes a fire risk.”

The clean-up will be ongoing but with a sense of urgency due to rising water levels.

Mercier recognizes that there are mixed ideas about what to do about remote camps like this.

“It’s a Catch 22. Some want us to leave them alone and others want something done because of the risk of fire and items getting into our lake.”

READ MORE: ‘Status quo no longer an option’: Penticton pays $85K a year to address homelessness

READ MORE: Homeless man crushed in recycling truck in Penticton

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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