53312

Penticton  

$26K spent on Braun case

The City of Penticton has spent just over $26,000 so far prosecuting a well-known panhandler, trying to remove him from the Main Street breezeway he has refused to move from for at least four years.

The city disclosed the legal expenses related to its battle with Paul Braun within a wide-ranging status update on several underway downtown safety initiatives. In the update, the City reiterated it is prosecuting Braun to defend the rights of downtown businesses and only wants to enforce its bylaws, which prohibit panhandling within 10 metres of a breezeway.

“If a business or a resident violates a bylaw and the City is aware we would seek compliance. If we could not achieve compliance the matter would likely go before the courts,” the update reads. “A high percentage of the time people comply because court is too expensive. In this case the only people paying are Penticton tax payers.”

Braun is being defended pro-bono by local lawyer Paul Varga. The matter is set to go to a three-day trial in September.

City manager Peter Weeber says he expects the city will have to spend another $15,000 to close the case out, something he admits is a waste, but says the city has no choice but to enforce its bylaws.

“If we allow illegal panhandling, why not drinking and drugs? We can just give up Nanaimo Square to the party going on there,” he said, adding the city isn't seeking money, and just wants Braun — who is no longer homeless — to move.

The city has formed a working group on downtown security, with representatives from the Downtown Penticton Association, Chamber of Commerce, RCMP, Bylaw and council.

The update sent to media highlighted the group’s initiatives to make downtown unwelcoming to the street-entrenched population. Additional lighting has been installed in 100 to 300 block alleys, with plans for more in Nanaimo Square, local parks and along Ellis Creek.

Gates are going up in doorways, benches are being removed, brush is being trimmed and standardized “do not trespass” signs are being created to be distributed to downtown businesses. Phone numbers for RCMP and bylaw will be posted around the community as a part of a “see something report something” campaign.

Private security has been tasked with patrolling city parks, bathrooms and the rec centre, while the RCMP has reportedly committed to enforce a “zero drug and alcohol policy on the downtown and area.” A crackdown on homeless camping and drug use in the Esplanade will proceed, with the purpose of protecting “an environmentally sensitive area.”

With so much focus being paid to downtown, Weeber doesn’t believe the push will send the bad behaviour out into the surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

“Residents will be on the phone in a New-York minute with us, if somebody is standing in front on their home,” he said. “They are downtown because its been tolerated for so long by local businesses.”

Weeber said the city isn’t targeting homeless people generally, referring to most that wander around at night to stay safe and sleep during the days under bridges and in parks. He maintains the city is going after the “wolves” who are out at night victimizing people.

He said the city remains in talks to find a new location for the modular housing development for the homeless previously proposed for Green Ave., which was rejected by council after outcry from the neighbourhood. He admits that until that development finds a home, there is no interim housing solution for those that need it.

COMMENTS WELCOME

Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.



More Penticton News

50852
Recent Trending
49792


134462




Send us your News Tips!


132467
Okanagan Oldies

Penticton SPCA Featured Pet

109-Keith
109-Keith Penticton SPCA >


132467


Castanet Proud Member of RTNDA Canada
132472
132190