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Homeless win right to camp in city parks


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#81 Roger

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 06:48 PM

Aastra,

I see that you have also read most of the court decision. In essence the judge after reviewing the facts, charter interpretation and relevant legal precedents ruled that the homeless had a right to temporary shelter in public places (including parks) using tarps, tents, cardboard boxes etc. The sections of the city bylaw that dealt with prohibiting shelters in parks or public places were declared invalid. The bylaw had already been changed before the ruling to permit sleeping in these areas and it was the issue of shelter that was ruled on by the BC Supreme court.

It is important to note that the ruling specifically permitted homeless citizens to have access to public places where they could construct temporary shelter. The ruling did not say that anyone could camp anywhere for free for as long as they liked. Since the city does not have reasonable, designated sleeping areas at the present time it appears any public place that does not pose a safety or health issue is now an option for the homeless.

The problem with this ruling is that it will be difficult to enforce any rules and things might easily get out of hand.

- What is the definition of a homeless person and how do enforcement officials determine whether individuals meet the requirement? If an out-of-town hiker camps in the park is that OK? What about a family on a summer camping trip? How does one determine that kids having an overnight party don't fit the profile when there is no legal requirement to produce ID.

- What is the definition of temporary? Overnight, one day, two days, a week? One might say overnight but does that mean takedown at sunrise, 9 AM, 10 AM? What about those individuals who have trouble sleeping at night so they want to set up camp during the day.

- The sections on damage to park infrastructure were also over-ruled as applicable to the erection of the shelter. Presumably killing the grass is OK but sawing down trees is going too far. Where is the line between wilful damage and necessity?

- What level of civil disobedience or criminal activity will be tolerated before police will intervene or make arrests? One can assume non-agressive panhandling will be OK. What about drinking, drugs, fighting etc.

It looks like city council has a lot to do until we get shelter facilities for all the homeless. In the interim new bylaws have to be drafted; designated areas for sleeping and constructing shelter need to be determined; additional police have to be allocated to keep the peace and enforce existing laws and more toilet/washroom/refuse facilities have to built in the parks unless we want the consequences of not doing so.

We will also have to be prepared for additional homeless taking up residence in our city. One need only use google to see how far and wide this story has circulated. With 2010 approaching and the associated concern for the Vancouver Eastside we can expect lots more arrivals.

#82 mat

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 07:26 PM

Roger - you bring up a number of very good points which need to be quickly addressed by the city. Bylaw officers and the police require direction to operate within the law, not next week, but tomorrow.

1: CBC radio reported this afternoon that the Council meeting set for Thursday evening will be closed to the public - maybe Rob, Sue or another VV member with city contacts can verify that.

2: This is not rumour, but I have no links to verify - private contract bylaw officers, like animal control, who also patrol city parks for all bylaw infractions, like camping, have been told to back off completely - that includes open fires, animals off leash, inappropriate behaviour...

3: VicPD, Oak Bay and Saanich police may be asked to take over park patrols for public safety - bylaw officers are generally not trained to deal with public order issues, they have no powers of arrest or detention, and do not carry weapons or are required to be trained in self defense.(although many are former police)

Our police forces are already over stretched, and in fact are not mandated to enforce bylaw infringements - they can, and do, back up city officials and private enforcement officers when called but if the municipalities now direct them to take over, resources will have to be pulled from other units.

#83 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 07:46 PM

If this ruling is meant to achieve political results, then the only legitimate place for setting up overnight camps is on the lawn of the Legislature. And maybe on the grass at Centennial Square. Show the tourists, show people here on conventions. Anywhere else would be mischief -- or business as usual.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#84 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 07:50 PM

Apparently tents are set up in Beacon Hill Park.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#85 mat

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:04 PM

yes - it's here on Tyee.

I might go out tomorrow to take pics. What is being heard from social workers and bylaw officers who have daily contact with homeless and 'street active' people is the message is out - those who wish to make a public statement will choose open, public areas in parks like Beacon Hill, others who want a safe, private area will choose smaller parks -

#86 mat

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:27 PM

Maybe this sign should go up in CRD parks:



#87 martini

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:31 PM

If this ruling is meant to achieve political results, then the only legitimate place for setting up overnight camps is on the lawn of the Legislature. And maybe on the grass at Centennial Square. Show the tourists, show people here on conventions. Anywhere else would be mischief -- or business as usual.


Agree, as the ONLY way to reverse this is through political pressure. I see no other way.

I cannot imagine what the police force must be feeling like over this.

We might as well expect Canada wide squatters now. Word is out.

#88 Rob Randall

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:43 PM

1: CBC radio reported this afternoon that the Council meeting set for Thursday evening will be closed to the public - maybe Rob, Sue or another VV member with city contacts can verify that.


All I know is that the potential new police board members will be discussed at the in-camera (closed) meeting at 8 am. The discussion on the homeless ruling will probably be a late item to the agenda. I'll go to the open meeting at nine and I'll try to find out the direction the City is going on this.

I cannot imagine what the police force must be feeling like over this.


The police force doesn't have the money to do the things we expect of them now let alone during this crisis. The 19 new officers are all hired but many of them are still undergoing training in Burnaby. There's nothing left in the tank right now; they're running on fumes.

#89 Jacques Cadé

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 09:21 PM

One way out of this may be to zero in on the word "temporary". The judge repeatedly refers to the right to have temporary shelter – at some point in the decision I think she even defines it as overnight shelter, but I can't find that part now.

So tents are OK. But not tents in the same place for weeks or months. And certainly not what Johnson told the Tyee:

Johnston, rubbing his hands together in the morning cold, said the campers will likely build a kitchen today and may soon make a fire pit for warmth. They have a portable toilet, he said, and the city may also provide facilities.


The city is probably still legally able to move these folks out of the park. Whether the city is physically or politically – or morally – able to do it is another matter entirely.

#90 martini

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 09:22 PM

The police force doesn't have the money to do the things we expect of them now let alone during this crisis. The 19 new officers are all hired but many of them are still undergoing training in Burnaby. There's nothing left in the tank right now; they're running on fumes.

True, they don't. We're pretty much running on a skeleton crew. Ticks me off when people make backhanded remarks. They simply have no idea what these officers endure.

#91 mat

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 09:32 PM

Rob, thanks

There maybe a discussion, but little action - the City Solicitor will have to submit a report, maybe an advisory, on appealing the ruling, and that will take some days. The City has 30 days to appeal.

I would like to see a statement from all affected CRD municipalities on how they are directing bylaw officers and police - and here is why.

We have animal control officers patrolling parks, and enforcing (up to now) all bylaws concerning park activities, including camping etc. - they have been told today to back off from campers and their animals, what about others? I think the homeowner dog walker who gets a caution or fine for an infringement can rightly point out the law is not applied fairly - and sue under the charter. :)

#92 Roger

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 09:49 PM

Agree, as the ONLY way to reverse this is through political pressure. I see no other way.

I cannot imagine what the police force must be feeling like over this.

We might as well expect Canada wide squatters now. Word is out.


I think the residents of Victoria need to accept reality and realize that this will not be reversed. Even the political will to make things look good for 2010 has done little to alleviate the homeless problem in Vancouver. With the US economy entering recession and Canada joining them shortly provincial and federal dollars for our Victoria homeless problem will be scarce.

The courts in Canada are now making social policy using the Charter and there is little even the federal politicians can do unless they wish to unleash the dreaded notwithstanding clause which is political suicide. You can expect more rulings like this this in the future. Maybe the courts will decree that squatters can take over unused private buildings like they do in some European countries.

We will have a mess very soon - plain and simple. Johnston and his associates will do what Ms. B. Havin suggested and camp on the legislature lawn, city hall and in the park by the Coho and get their desired effect. Tourists and convention visitors will see things up close and personal and just not come back. Politicians will make eloquent speeches in the next municipal and federal election and do little when they get into office. The temporary camps will become semi-permanent with litter piled up and park damage. These will be areas that families and children will just avoid or walk by quickly as they look over their shoulder. Overloaded police will just look the other way unless serious crimes are committed. Civic pride will diminish and their will be even more who avoid coming downtown at all.

Martini - you are right about a swelling population of homeless here. Victoria has an estimated homeless population of around 1000 while Vancouver, a much larger city, has 1600. Our mild climate and generous citizens are a magnet for the less fortunate and this ruling will make Victoria a more attractive destination.

Some readers may think I am painting a bleak picture for the future of our city. Sadly, it is just the way I see it and sincerely hope that I am wrong. If anyone thinks any of my comments in this post or my earlier posts are unfounded or believe the future looks brighter please try your hand with the paintbrush.

#93 mat

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 10:31 PM

Roger - wow, don't agree with some of your comments, but well stated.

Courts in Canada have a history of taking political policy, from all sides, and reversing - especially on social issues. Most voters do not know, or take into account, the UN resolutions, the Charter, Commonwealth and Privy Council - and it is constantly amazing that all levels of government get this wrong.

Canada signed up to the UN Charter on Refugees (cited in the ruling) - "adequate shelter must be provided to internal refugees"

So - let's do it. Set up a regulated camp, in lieu of housing, close to downtown, with facilities - could be in Beacon Hill Park. Honour the Charter, and let the Municipalities enforce bylaws around it.

#94 sebberry

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 10:39 PM

Do the taxpaying residents have a responsibility to finance the cleanup of drug related items and restoration of damaged lawns as a result of this?

Why should we, the taxpaying residents of Victoria, feel uncomfortable using downtown parks due to the homeless' tent cities?

What exactly is a public park? Is it a park accessible to anyone? Is it a parcel of land designed to be used by the taxpaying residents?

If I had kids, I would be a heck of a lot less likely to go and play frisbee or ball in one of these parks now. Heck, I would feel reluctant to take my dog to those places for fear that a poorly discarded drug needle would get stuck in one of his paws.


And to think it is still an offense to park my car at clover point or Mt. Tolmie after 11:00 pm, quietly drinking a hot chocolate observing the scenery.

#95 mat

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 10:51 PM

.
And to think it is still an offense to park my car at clover point or Mt. Tolmie after 11:00 pm, quietly drinking a hot chocolate observing the scenery.


You have a point - hence previous posts regarding bylaw enforcement. Would this ruling include camper vans, or cars, with overnight sleepers. Cook St. from Chapman St. to Dallas Rd. has signs about overnight sleeping - do those bylaws still apply?

#96 Sue Woods

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 11:06 PM

Some readers may think I am painting a bleak picture for the future of our city. Sadly, it is just the way I see it and sincerely hope that I am wrong. If anyone thinks any of my comments in this post or my earlier posts are unfounded or believe the future looks brighter please try your hand with the paintbrush.


Hi Roger, I agree with what you've been saying. And I also agree with the others who suggest we may need to set up a controlled area in an outlying park or beach. But I still feel there is a bigger role for churches to play. They all have basements and halls, especially where families and children living in poverty are concerned. Sue

#97 Zimquats

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:14 AM

True, they don't. We're pretty much running on a skeleton crew. Ticks me off when people make backhanded remarks. They simply have no idea what these officers endure.



Huh?

Doing what? From what I see they are mandated to tasks that produce income for the City (ie speed traps). I have yet to see a police officer in this town take any action against a real crime. I've seen them walk right by the IV user downtown at noon to direct traffic with 10 of their buddies at a minor accident that didn't need their help to begin with. Go to Smitty's or the ABC restaraunt at 7:00 am, and you'll find half of the on duty officers in one of these two locations.

Arresting criminals takes time, which takes effort, which takes money, which takes away from the coffers. Our police service is a joke.

And it will be proven in the next few days when these temporary shelters turn into full time residences, and the police do nothing.

#98 Caramia

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:15 AM

Some readers may think I am painting a bleak picture for the future of our city. Sadly, it is just the way I see it and sincerely hope that I am wrong. If anyone thinks any of my comments in this post or my earlier posts are unfounded or believe the future looks brighter please try your hand with the paintbrush.


Here's my best try with the optimist's paint-brush:
*cough*

Assuming the ruling doesn't get overturned, but rather is the way of the future...

The Future

After a period of legal confusion, during which the gleeful street community sets up camps in central locations in public parks while the City talks to it's lawyers, a report recommending appropriate bylaws in light of the new ruling, will be presented to the new council. Council will strengthen charges and fines for picking flowers in the park, animal control bylaws, and littering laws. Essentially, it will become legal to put up a tent if you don't have a place to sleep, but you'll get pinched the moment you foul the nest. This standard will be strictly enforced in popular parks, and mostly ignored in out of the way places. The street people will adjust accordingly, most of them just wanting a place to put their head without being bothered. They will soon learn that pitching a tent next to a playground results in being carted off to one of the hastily created shelter beds around the city. A bus to Gordon Head or Cadboro Bay now means a quiet night rest, as long as you remember to stay under the radar by keeping park rules.

Sombrio and Bear Beach, which have no municipal authorities to respond to complaints, will welcome home their communities, who will begin to slowly rebuild the life that was destroyed. This will resume it's function as a safe retreat for many people who are incapable of functioning within normal society, and who right now are sleeping in shelters or doorways downtown. As the economy slides into a depression, more and more people who are unable to find work will join these self-reliant communities, or create others like them.

Substance abusers will conglomerate in areas that become "no go zones" for regular folk. After a period of chaos and uncertainty, police will focus on these areas and leave the rest be, and all the arrests will keep the courtroom doors spinning. By the next provincial election, "doing something about the junkies" will be THE election issue. The provincial government, faced with a mountain of evidence and complaints will help set up community courts and will start building shelter-clinics dispersed throughout the province along with assisted living situations, just to get these people out of the parks.

At this point, the province will realize that a large percentage of drug addicts are also mentally ill. Many will be institutionalized. Others will continue as street junkies, with the main difference being that they sleep in all parks, not just the parks in poor neighbourhoods.

Years from now, a squatter's right to erect a shelter for the night will be extended to buildings left abandoned for over five years, in part because angry citizens will decide that they would rather the cost of cleaning up be done by delinquent property owners than by park staff. By this time, the entire mess will have worked itself up to federal level courts - so all these rulings will apply nation-wide, reducing the number of homeless coming here. The beautiful abandoned brick warehouses of the Eastern provinces will provide a further draw to compete with our mild climate. This will also offer a strong disincentive towards leaving property vacant, causing landlords to arrange "anti-squat" tenancies with artists or other marginal people who will live in their building in return for free or next to free rent.

The bohemian lifestyle that emerges in these decaying areas of town will eventually form the foundation of new "chic" neighbourhoods, next time the economy cycles around. The skills that the homeless developed in providing themselves with shelter will make them more employable during the next labour shortage than the ones who stayed in shelters and learned only how to have others do for them.

Anyone want to borrow my glasses?
They are tinted, guess the colour?
;)
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#99 martini

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:22 AM

Huh?

Doing what? From what I see they are mandated to tasks that produce income for the City (ie speed traps). I have yet to see a police officer in this town take any action against a real crime. I've seen them walk right by the IV user downtown at noon to direct traffic with 10 of their buddies at a minor accident that didn't need their help to begin with.

Arresting criminals takes time, which takes effort, which takes money, which takes away from the coffers. Our police service is a joke.

And it will be proven in the next few days when these temporary shelters turn into full time residences, and the police do nothing.

Have you actually sat down heart to heart with any police officer?
They can't take much action anymore. Their hands are tied, and now handcuffed due to this new park ruling.
So if that cop dealt with the IV drug user...what do you think would be the end result? hhmmm
A waste of time and resources most likely. Another slap on the wrist for the addict.
Arresting criminals does take time, effort, and money. You want to tell all the arresting officers of repeat offenders why they are let out of court in a revolving door?
Don't blame the cops, blame the politicians.

#100 Zimquats

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:43 AM

Yes, and I agree with everything you say.

Everything!



Doesn't make it right or less broke. And regulated to check stops and traffic accidents because the politicians don't let them go after 'poor' crimimals does not make them overtaxed or heavily burdoned. If 10 cops got together and decided to do their jobs, at risk of losing their jobs, they could likely change things. Would you be willing to make that decision?

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