One BC municipality is trying to clean up its downtown core by prohibiting sitting and sleeping on city streets during the summer months.
Earlier this week, Penticton city council voted 5-2 to amend the Good Neighbourhood Bylaw, prohibiting individuals from sitting or sleeping on several city streets from May to September 30.
Those found violating the rule are subject to a $100 fine from police or city bylaw officers.
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Coun. Judy Sentes said that the amendment was needed because of the ongoing pressure council faced from the public to clean up the city’s downtown area.
“There’s been significant pressure on our council from the community for a long time. This is not something new or something overnight that has been asking for the good of the whole that our downtown area can be more welcoming,” she said.
Coun. Jake Kimberly spoke about the city’s homeless population but said their panhandling interferes with residents and businesses.
“It’s unfortunate that this council or this city has to look at these restrictions of people using sidewalks for wrong purposes… it is really a recognition of where their plight is — they’re looking for money obviously. But it does interfere with the residents who pay for those sidewalks,” he said.
“It does interfere with businesses that pay for taxes that occupy those stores and it’s really unfortunate to see some of the activities outside of those stores and on the sidewalks related to this issue of panhandling.”
Coun. Campbell Watt was one of the two councillors who voted against the amendment, noting that council was not providing any other options for the homeless.
“If we’re asking anybody not to be sitting on our streets or lying on our streets I sure wish we had somewhere for them to go and I don’t think we’re suggesting an area for them to be instead. It sure feels like we’re just pushing an element out… and I’m not honestly very comfortable with it.”
The bylaw is still awaiting final approval.