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City seeks injunction to remove homeless from downtown camps

A man shaves in the park next to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George office. Bill Phillips photo

City council has directed city administration to pursue a civil injunction to allow for the orderly and safe removal of unlawful encampments, including the one on George Street across from the Court House. In addition to representing an unlawful occupation and trespass on city property, encampments present several health, safety, legal, and environmental challenges. The occupants of the George Street encampment will be served notice of trespass on Friday, June 11.

Although the city frequently works in collaboration with other governments and agencies to address local social issues, one of the areas through which the city can act is through its own bylaws:

  • New Safe Streets Bylaw. At its June 14 meeting, Council will consider first three readings for a proposed new Safe Streets Bylaw, which deals with behaviour on streets and sidewalks such as aggressive panhandling, loitering, littering, sidewalk obstruction, graffiti, open drug use, needle disposal, as well as the creation of structures, temporary shelters, and campfires on streets and sidewalks. 
  • Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw Amendment. At its June 14 meeting, Council will also consider directing Administration to amend the existing Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw to more clearly give the City the authority to remove people who are camping, creating fires, consuming alcohol, and engaging in nuisance activities in parks and open spaces. The proposed amendment would also designate area(s) where camping could be allowed and prescribe limits on the duration of the activity. This would be done in collaboration with organizations such as BC Housing in relation to the availability of local shelter spaces. There is currently shelter capacity in Prince George.

Background

The City of Prince George has implemented a number of recent initiatives to increase collaboration among the agencies that manage social issues including homelessness. Most recently, Council adopted the Select Committee on Poverty Reduction’s recommendationson how the City can support the implementation of the BC Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (Together BC) in Prince George.

In early 2020, Council established the Select Committee on a Safe, Clean, and Inclusive Community to advise Council and City Staff on addressing social issues throughout Prince George (with a focus on the downtown core). Recently, the City opened the Community Safety Hub downtown on George Street, which was one of the key commitments approved by Council that are contained in a report from the Select Committee on a Safe, Clean, and Inclusive Community. 

BC Housing is also collaborating with the City and Northern Health on one of the most significant and innovative housing projects in Northern BC. Together, the partners are adding affordable housing integrated with healthcare services in a supportive housing project on 1st Avenue to serve the community’s most vulnerable populations and improve the community, particularly the City’s downtown area. The initiative – which has two phases – will provide up to 150 new affordable homes with support and services.

In 2019, the City launched two new projects in the downtown area aimed at providing washroom and storage access for vulnerable and homeless people. The site at 181 Quebec street offers storage, washroom, and outreach services. The second site at 144 George Street provides access to storage, washroom, shower, laundry, and outreach services. The City collaborated with BC Housing, the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, and the Association Advocating for Women and the Community (AWAC) to provide these critical services.

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