At its governance and policies meeting Nov. 6, Town of Peace River discussed the creation of a bylaw to address camping in public spaces.
The Town is interested in addressing community concerns regarding an increase in unauthorized camping in public areas. Mayor Elaine Manzer says the areas of concern include the downtown area and bushes along the riverbank south of the bridges.
“(We are) concerned generally for safety of residents also passing the areas, possibility of fires and unsafe behaviours of camp occupants,” says Manzer.
“Also, some in the encampments may be causing vandalism or interfering with the operations of businesses,” she adds.
The Town’s current process is to get the Town of Peace River peace officer to ask the individual to remove their items from Town-owned space. They provide 48 hours of notice to the individual, with a follow-up notice after 24 hours. Manzer says most people leave without any trouble, and once the area is safe, staff go to the spot to clean up any refuse from the camper.
“It can be a public safety threat if the individuals in the encampments are not behaving civilly to each other and passers by or under the influence of something causing them to behave irrationally,” says Manzer.
“Individuals occupying the camps are generally homeless or choosing to not sleep inside for a variety of their own reasons,” she adds.
The proposed bylaw would not only address the unauthorized campers, but also would help to prevent other issues like community groups camping in town parking lots. The hope is the bylaw would redirect people to appropriate locations like local and regional campgrounds.
“Council directed administration to bring back a draft bylaw for further consideration,” says Manzer.
“If first reading was approved, then the process of second and third readings would follow.”