Cranbrook, BC (June 26, 2023) – Following direction provided by Council in April 2023, staff brought forward a proposed no camping zones bylaw Monday night, which was given three readings by Council.
Increasing numbers of homeless individuals in the City of Cranbrook and increasing numbers of visible tent encampments continue to pop up around the community. Council is actively aware of the challenges of homelessness and the issues homelessness brings to the community. Communities everywhere are struggling with this issue, and although there is no working solution for Cranbrook to copy, we are learning best practices and sharing information with other communities with this same issue.
The proposed new bylaw looks to allow for the taking down of tents during the day and temporary structures on public lands, with no camping allowed on designated City parks, recreational areas or within the vicinity of government buildings, creeks, etc. The proposed bylaw also clearly defines what a temporary structure is.
It is a constitutional right for people to be able to take shelter at night, and BC Courts support the plight of our vulnerable populations that are setting up temporary shelters in public areas. BC Courts allow cities to develop no-camping zones but also expect us to allow areas within City limits for members of the vulnerable population to take shelter.
The proposed bylaw designates specific areas not allowed for encampments. Still, it cannot include all land inside the City, or it would be invalid legally, meaning that the City cannot create a bylaw that makes camping by homeless individuals within City limits illegal. This proposed bylaw will guide the community going forward regarding how the City and its operations will manage homeless camps.
“Council has received reports from numerous experts and agencies, including our legal counsel, and considered various options to deal with encampments. We feel this is the best option to provide the City with some form of control of our local situation. We will consider other potential proven solutions that may develop as we move forward,” says Mayor Wayne Price.
A guiding piece of case law (provincial law defined by court cases) set the rules the City of Cranbrook and any municipality in BC must abide by when dealing with homeless encampments:
- A homeless camp can be taken down during the daytime and are then allowed to be re-established for the evening. This option may only be done in the summer and is not allowed in winter. The City of Cranbrook does this now and cleans up the encampment sites on an ongoing basis with staff and contracted resources.
The benefits of this management option will allow numerous areas of Cranbrook to be protected from encampments and reduce the number of tents overall. Other benefits would include a reduced population of individuals ‘living rough’ as more of them will seek proper shelter and accommodations that would allow them to store their belongings.
“The camping bylaw is a good step forward, as we try to outline our expectations of anyone that chooses to live in a temporary shelter within the City. Their best option is always to go the appropriate shelter and receive the professional support,” says Paul Heywood, Manager of Building and Bylaw Services with the City of Cranbrook.