BY: PAUL J. HENDERSON/CHILLIWACK PROGRESS
A group of individuals who have set up camp in the old Empress parking lot downtown may face eviction soon as city hall seeks to have them removed.
On a visit to the site Monday afternoon no fewer than 20 individuals were lying, sitting or walking around in and among tents, tarps and shopping carts.
Most of those individuals were hanging around or near the mobile needle exchange, which was parked at the south end of the lot near Princess Avenue.
In recent weeks, bylaw staff have repeatedly attended to the growing number of homeless persons who have set up camp at the location downtown with little success.
“The homeless group has set up temporary abode contrary to the bylaw and this has given rise to many public complaints,” according to the staff report prepared by director of operations Glen MacPherson. “Bylaw staff have been seeking bylaw compliance from the homeless group for several weeks but most of the encampment occupants refuse to comply.”
In July, city council responded to a BC Supreme Court decision that stated when there aren’t enough shelter spaces in a community, banning sheltered outdoor sleeping violates fundamental rights.
The city amended its bylaw to allow homeless people to camp in municipal parks, but with several restrictions.
The group downtown that the city seeks the injunction against week is violating the bylaw by setting up temporary shelters within any municipal parking lot or within five metres of any landscaped area or within five metres of any private property adjacent to a municipal property.
The staff recommendation is that city council resolve to instruct municipal lawyers to bring a proceeding in BC Supreme Court seeking the injunction against the occupants at the encampment.
Council will address the recommendation at its 3 p.m. meeting today (Tuesday).