Penticton bylaw looks to province to cleanup homeless encampments along Highway 97

This homeless encampment along the Channel Highway had to be dismantled, finding propane tanks, stolen goods, weapons and used needles to name a few items. (City Bylaw Dept)This homeless encampment along the Channel Highway had to be dismantled, finding propane tanks, stolen goods, weapons and used needles to name a few items. (City Bylaw Dept)
Bylaw officers served an encampment along the Highway 97 channel highway a notice to vacate but the coordination between police, fire and bylaw and clean up teams is expensive, said Bylaws. (city bylaws)Bylaw officers served an encampment along the Highway 97 channel highway a notice to vacate but the coordination between police, fire and bylaw and clean up teams is expensive, said Bylaws. (city bylaws)

Penticton city bylaw is asking for the NDP government to step in and help with the growing encampments that pose a fire hazard on provincial land.

Stolen goods, propane tanks, feces, drug paraphernalia including sharps as well as weapons are just some of the dangers bylaw officers in Penticton are encountering at homeless encampments along Highway 97, the Penticton Channel parkway and on Penticton Indian Band land.

On Monday, Penticton city’s bylaw supervisor Tina Mercier was in front of the city’s safety and security advisory committee to talk about the increase in encampments and the dangers they pose both to the safety of residents and visitors but to bylaw staff as well. They also pose a fire hazard, she added.

She is hoping city council will agree to send a letter to the province requesting assistance with clean-up efforts along Highway 97 and other non-city lands and establish a provincial clean team or dedicated resources to respond to this growing issue of encampments.

“The transient population is exploiting the jurisdictional uncertainty and setting up camp in those areas that outside of city’s boundaries,” Mercier said.

The resources involved to deal with these encampments are extensive and expensive for the taxpayers of Penticton, said Mercier.

But inaction is not an option.

“If these camps are left even for just a few days, more people will come to live there and the problems grow and get worse,” she said.

Mercier cites the encampment near the Tim Horton’s as a good example of the extent of resources and coordination needed to have the campers vacate and then for staff to clean up the mess left behind.

“It takes about three weeks of coordination from bylaw, RCMP, fire, traffic services and our Clean Team,” she explained.

First, the encampment residents have to be given written notice that they have to move. Time has to be given for them to move and then they work from there.

Safety committee member Lynn Allin, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association, said she wanted to acknowledge that business owners have been seeing an influx of new faces that are turning up in town and living in these encampments.

“It’s a combination of both Penticton residents who have long refused to connect to services and prefer to sleep rough as well as new faces,” said Mercier.

READ MORE: Clean up of Esplanade camp extensive, expensive

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