Sidney will amend the bylaws for staying in public parks as some residents have concerns about a perceived increase in homelessness, a perception disputed by others.
City councilors last month gave three readings on revisions clarifying how the municipality defines which homeless people are allowed to camp overnight and some of the rules they must follow.
These so-called Eligible Residents are homeless individuals who have registered with the municipality and provide photo ID, full legal name, last residential address, and next of kin while complying with all park bylaws.
A statement from the community said the recent bylaw changes, which are awaiting final approval, give bylaw officers and the RCMP the clarity to enforce the bylaws as intended, without changing the community’s approach to overnight camping.
“Enforcement related to overnight camping has been relaxed due to the province’s order during the pandemic,” it said. “The city is now resuming regular enforcement in cooperation with the RCMP.”
In Sydney, homeless people can find shelter between 7pm and 9am the following day, constructing or occupying temporary shelter in a park.
They may be within 100 meters of playgrounds, community gardens, sports fields, tennis courts, picnic shelters, gazebos, stages, water parks, skate parks, parking lots, public washrooms, ornamental gardens or horticultural exhibitions, among other measures.
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Reports from Black Press Media indicate a growing presence of homelessness in Sydney, with the bandshell at Beacon Park becoming a focal point. The agenda for Sydney’s regular council meeting on July 18 also included a letter from Yolanda and Denis Corbett urging the council to “stop the spread of street populations in Sydney before it gets out of control.”
However, such evidence should be read with caution. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP Cpl. Andres Sanchez said the number of homeless people in Sidney is fluctuating, adding that there are currently around 10 homeless people in the area.
Overall, Sanchez said homelessness in Sidney has gone down.
He also added that enforcement is just one of several tools being used to address Sydney’s homelessness problem.
“The RCMP and Department of Housing and Social Development are in touch with these individuals on a weekly basis, both to conduct a health check and to facilitate access to support programs,” he said. “The RCMP also works with Integrated Homelessness Action Response Teams to find workable solutions to homelessness in the Greater Victoria Region.”
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