Penticton bylaw officers want to assure the public they followed all necessary steps in evicting a homeless man from his camp on the morning of Feb. 24.
According to Kerri Lockwood, the city’s director of human resources, bylaw officers dismantled a homeless man’s “mobile shack” and removed his belongings after they received numerous complaints from the public.
“Bylaw handled it on-site and provided him with resources in the community that would support him to have shelter,” said Lockwood.
She explained the man was living in a makeshift tent in the Skaha Lake parking lot and the dwelling was taken down because it violated city bylaws and was in close proximity to a playground.
Lockwood said the man was well-known to the city and to RCMP.
The city said the man was previously advised that his dwelling was unsafe and was given resources to find adequate shelter.
They further explained bylaw officers had “serious fire and life safety concerns” about the dwelling — the man had a five-foot-tall propane tank hooked up to a space heater in his tent.
The man was also allegedly in possession of stolen goods including two 12-volt car batteries, wiring, knives and saws.
The majority of the stolen items have been returned to their owners. Other non-stolen personal items were disposed of by bylaw officers.
According to Lockwood, the city provided the man with resources to find safe shelter when they evicted him.
John McDaniel, owner of Rocky Mountain Renovations, briefly employed the man before his dwelling was torn down. McDaniel said homelessness is a complex issue but he believes the city needs a more supportive strategy when dealing with people living on the street.
McDaniel was prompted to head down to the man’s camp after seeing an online post describing the dwelling as a “shelter on wheels.” He said the man immediately jumped at the opportunity to work after he offered him a job.
“Once I gave him the power tools and described what I wanted him to build you could just see a change in him,” said McDaniel.
“He worked fast, he worked hard and he didn’t ask for anything. He just went to work and I respect that.”
McDaniel has employed people struggling with homelessness and disabilities in the past and is well aware of the unique challenges that come with it.
McDaniel would like to see the city take an approach to homelessness that gives people an opportunity to improve their situation rather than take away the small amount they have. He is supportive of the city’s efforts to “clean out” homeless encampments but thinks allowing people who are faced with the reality of sleeping on the street to possess a “survival cart” could help homeless people improve their situation.
McDaniel said in his experience many homeless people would rather sleep on the street than go to a shelter because they want to avoid drug use and crime that is often rampant in shelters. Having a safe place to sleep and keep their belongings secure would go a long way in helping homeless people improve their situation, said McDaniel.
“If we’re going to do anything to facilitate these people moving off the street, we have to give them the ability to feel secure.
“We have to work with it in a manner that addresses their physical ailments, their addictions and their mental health,” said McDaniel.