City: No 'war on homeless'

An update on Tuesday's protest can be found here

The City of Penticton is fighting back against allegations that they're waging a war on the homeless when they prosecute panhandler Paul Braun in court for unpaid bylaw tickets. 

"Mr. Braun’s lawyer has suggested that the city is leading a 'war on the homeless'. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Braun is not homeless and has a residence," the city said in a two-page statement on Tuesday.

"There is no correlation between the circumstances surrounding Mr. Braun’s failure to comply with the Good Neighbour Bylaw and the challenges surrounding homelessness in Penticton."

Braun was issued eight municipal bylaw offence tickets between Jul. 18 and Oct. 29 in 2017, and was summoned to court by the city in November.

After pleading not guilty last week his case will go to four-day trial later this year.

The city says they have been trying to get Braun to move from the breezeway on the 200 block of Main St. since 2014. Penticton's bylaws prohibit panhandling within 10 metres of an entrance or enclosed walkway.

"As Mr. Braun has regularly refused to move (whereas other offenders have readily moved), officers have been forced to ticket him in order to treat him equally before the law."

The city says they offered to waive 90 per cent of Braun's fines if he would comply with the bylaw, prior to the trial date being set. They said he rejected, which forced them to continue with their court case.

In their statement, the city also outlined steps taken to support homeless residents, saying the issue is taken seriously at city hall. 

Their initiatives include converting two motels into transitional housing, supporting zoning for new rental units and working with BC Housing and other housing groups. 

Braun's lawyer, Paul Varga, has maintained that the city is targeting his client. He plans to sit with Braun in protest in the breezeway at noon on Tuesday.

The trial for Braun's bylaw offences will take place from Sept. 11 to 14 in Penticton court.

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