Vernon council has put off — for a couple of weeks — possible action to deal with homeless residents in the Linear Park on 25th Avenue.
RCMP Constable Kerri Parish told council, there’s on average 12 to 15 individuals camping there each night, with fewer campers and less criminal activity — now that it’s out in the open compared to being partially hidden in Polson Park.
She says Polson had between 25 to 40 campers per night before a city bylaw limited shelter times took effect in August.
Councillor Brian Quiring would like to see camping banned in Linear Park from the Wholesale Club…..to 35th Avenue, starting in January, which would essentially move it a block or two west.
“That would take some of the heat off that neighborhood, around the People Place. It would still meet the objectives of trying to keep the group consolidated so they can be a little easier managed, but it would it would move away from some of the businesses and still not really impact any residential areas,” Quiring told Kiss FM.
Councillor Scott Anderson wanted to ban camping in all of Linear Park, but failed to get support.
“I want to dissuade people from camping outdoors in Vernon, and the reason I say that is because we attract a transient population from elsewhere who takes advantage of that to come to Vernon and use our services,” says Anderson.
Anderson says the homeless have had an impact on businesses downtown.
“Shoplifting, anecdotally, has gone up. I witnesses a shoplifting episode while I was waiting for the manager in one store. The manager was trying to get some guy out of the bathroom who, when I walked in, had drug paraphernalia on the counter.”
Anderson says a lot of resources are being used to deal with the 12 to 15 homeless residents in Linear Park.
“And nobody is really thinking about the folks who pay the taxes, and somebody has got to speak for them.”
Cst. Parish said a business has lost $15,000 in shopping carts which were stolen by the homeless over nine months, with a plan in place to eventually get them returned.
Mayor Akbal Mund says banning camping in Linear Park would only move the problem, not find a solution.
“My fear is they will move to residential areas which is the next areas they tend to gravitate towards, one being Hidden Park (by 34th Street and 33rd Avenue) which is surrounded by homes. The other being behind the Vernon Lodge by all those apartments in there,” says Mund.
The mayor says the issue is in the open now, and the public is seeing homelessness.
“And when they see it, they’re kind of amazed and wonder what is happening in Vernon.”
Mund says that’s in contrast to Vancouver where the public has seen homeless issues for decades and is immune to it.
Council voted to defer any action until their next meeting Oct. 23, to allow time to consider the options.