Thursday, June 13, 2019

June 10 Council Meeting Notes: Moving forward with restricting camping at Rotary Centennial Park

In 2015, the BC Supreme Court ruled that people who are experiencing homelessness can camp in municipal parks between 7pm and 9am. People are allowed to camp until a community has enough shelter/supportive housing spaces available to accommodate all people who are experiencing homelessnes in a community under the ruling. We currently do not have enough spaces in Langley.

BC Housing is working on building more supportive housing in Langley, and a new 49-unit facility is opening soon. The 2017 regional homeless count found that there was at least 79 people who were unsheltered and experiencing homelessness; this number is likely higher today. 49 units of supportive housing with 24/7 wraparound care is a good start, but it is likely that we need at least another 50 more units in our community.

While we wait for more supportive housing spaces, the BC Supreme Court ruling remains in effect. In response to the court ruling, Langley City council approved an update to our Parks and Public Faculties Bylaw which allows for people who are experiencing homelessness to erect temporary shelter and camp between 7pm and 9am in parks. Temporary shelters must be removed by 9am.

The bylaw also places reasonable restrictions on where camping can take place in parks. For example, camping is not allowed in playgrounds, flower beds, washrooms, sports courts, and sports fields. Camping is also not allowed in all public plazas, public squares, and public buildings.

The BC Supreme Court ruling allows municipalities to restrict camping in whole parks, but only if it doesn’t impact a person who is experiencing homelessness the ability to seek shelter that is easily accessible. As such, every camping restriction must be carefully considered. Currently camping is restricted in the whole of Douglas Park.

Rotary Centennial Park. Area inside red square is in the process of having a 24/7 restriction on camping being put in place. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City council is in the process of considering restricting camping in the whole of Rotary Centennial Park. The reasoning behind placing a restriction on camping in the whole park include:

  • The park’s proximity to high density housing including low income families with children who play in the park.
  • The large number of Syrian Government-Assisted Refugees live in the neighbourhood and are vulnerable due to limited English language skills.
  • The concern of residents about exposing their children to the ongoing intravenous drug use by some people who are sheltering overnight.
  • The on-going challenge with some people who are sheltering overnight who consistently refuse to abide by the BC Supreme Court ruling which states that shelters must be taken down between 9am and 7pm, so that other park users can enjoy the playing field and rest of the park.
  • There are other areas nearby where camping is permitted.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to amend the Parks and Public Facilities Regulation Bylaw to include Rotary Centennial as a park where camping is restricted in the whole park.

One of the ways to reduce homelessness is to make sure that there is enough supportive housing in our community. I will continue to advocate to the province and BC Housing for more supportive housing for Langley.

1 comment:

S. said...

If only people & governments spent as much time planning, funding & pushing envelopes to actually provide reasonable housing options to those experiencing homelessness as they do finding ways to block even temporary security & ensuring they're 'kept away' from the rest of the community.