A well-known Penticton homeless man is being taken to court by city hall over eight violations of the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw.
Paul Braun is known downtown for his regular perch at the corner of a breezeway between Main Street and the alleyway and parking lots just east of the street in the 200 block. It’s that particular spot that has created the contention between the two.
“I think city hall wants to give me silver bracelets for Christmas,” Braun said. “I’m sitting here and they come here and they hand me the subpoena and right behind them is a meter they installed that’s doing the same thing.
“Yes, that chokes me up.”
Braun’s subpoena cites eight counts of contraventions of the City of Penticton’s Bylaw 2012-5030, which says “No person shall panhandle in a manner to cause an obstruction.”
Obstruction, according to the bylaw, includes panhandling within 10 metres of an entrance to a bank or trust company, an ATM, a bus stop or shelter; the entrance to a liquor store, movie theatre, place of worship or sidewalk cafe; a payphone, a public washroom or, in this case, an enclosed or covered pedestrian walkway.
“They come around the corner here, and hand me a ticket all folded up, premade, turned around and went back to city hall,” Braun said. “And then they say they’re not targeting me while there’s people out there. They don’t bother going to see them. But yet they tell me, ‘why don’t you go and sit in Nanaimo Square?’ What, it’s legal there, but not here?”
The issue from the city’s perspective is the breezeway, which they claim Braun is obstructing, according to the bylaw. But Braun said he isn’t obstructing anyone from his point of view.
“I know I’ve got to lose some weight because they say I’m an obstruction, so I’ve got to get skinnier,” he joked, pointing out that two people or a scooter could easily pass by him in the breezeway.
Part of the reason Braun is sour over the ticket is the “kindness meter” the city put up next to his spot over the summer, which he feels is targeted at him.
In an email statement, Siebert said the city has handed Braun eight tickets over the Good Neighbour Bylaw between July 18 and Oct. 29 this year.
“The evidence will show that Mr. Braun feels so entitled to ‘his spot,’ that he intimidated and scared off another person who wanted to sit on ‘his spot,’” Siebert said, adding the city has handed him 19 tickets over three years.
“The only way for the City of Penticton to obtain compliance with its bylaw is to move from ticket enforcement, which the city has repeatedly done, to an information prosecution where the court can make an order preventing further breaches.”
The offence incurs a fine of over $100, which Braun said he had no way of paying.
“Where am I supposed to get $110 bucks from?” he asked. “It’s pretty stupid giving me a $110 ticket. It’s even dumber if they expect to get paid.”
Braun said he has seen plenty of others sitting in the spot without issue, including people in groups of two or three, along with dogs and backpacks.
“I don’t sit here with my blankets all spread out, three dogs, a cat and a chicken,” he said.
“I don’t say nothing to sh*t to nobody other than ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ and ‘thank you.’ I’m doing about the same thing as that meter’s doing.”
Nearby business operator Roz Campigotto said she has no issue with Braun where he is.
“We’ve been in business here, in this area for about 42 years, in this location for 30-something. And we’ve seen a lot of panhandlers, and he’s the most gentle of the lot,” she said.
“He sits there, he doesn’t ask you for money. He has a little sign, and if you give it to him, he’s very thankful, very polite. And he doesn’t litter.”
Campigotto, too, feels the city is targeting one person in particular, when others who are more obstructive take up the same spot.
“He comes in and uses the washroom here, and if he needed some towels, so we just give him what we have,” she said.
“We have to help each other. This is ridiculous. Honestly, why the city is doing this, I don’t know, because they must have bigger issues than Paul sitting in the breezeway.”