A group of homeless people has set up camp

A group of homeless people has set up camp

Chilliwack seeks injunction to move homeless campers from downtown parking lot

Homeless people set up an encampment, putting up tents and tarps for shelter in the back corner of old Empress parking lot

Chilliwack council is seeking a court injunction to oust a downtown homeless encampment from a city-owned parking lot.

It’s going to be discussed at city hall Tuesday afternoon.

Some homeless people have set up camp, and put up tents and tarps in the back corner of old Empress parking lot — near the needle exchange bus and the new Five Corners Park.

In recent weeks, City of Chilliwack bylaw officers have been trying to get the entrenched campers to comply with the city’s amended bylaw and traffic bylaw — to no avail.

After the BC Supreme Court ruled that homeless people have the right to set up temporary structures in parks, council updated its Parks Bylaw with the express aim of placing restrictions on how and where and when they can camp overnight in public spaces.

The aim of that move was balancing “the Charter Rights of homeless people, with the rights of residents to use public parks for recreation purposes,” according to the staff report.

The court injunction is the city staff and council looking at taking a new tack.

“In order to enforce the bylaw, staff are recommending that Council proceed to bring a proceeding to the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the occupants at the encampment to restrain the contravention of the City of Chilliwack bylaws.”

If this happens, RCMP can enforce the court injunctions. Bylaw has been urging them to move along to comply, but most have stubbornly refused to clear the area.

The parking lot they are talking about is bounded by Young Road, Princess Avenue, Yale Road and Nowell Street.

“The Parks, Recreation and Culture Bylaw No. 3290 (The Bylaw) prohibits the set up of a temporary abode, with or without a temporary shelter, within any municipal parking lot or within five metres of any landscaped area or within five metres of any private property adjacent to a municipal property,” according to the city staff report.

“The homeless group has set up temporary abode contrary to the Bylaw and this has given rise to many public complaints,” according to the report.

The parks bylaw is geared to have campers gone by morning, or not setting up any structures to begin with.

Bylaw staff have been seeking bylaw compliance from this homeless group for several weeks “but most of the encampment occupants refused to comply.”

In order to enforce the bylaw and get compliance, staff recommended that council instruct its solicitors to bring a proceeding to the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the occupants at the encampment to restrain the contravention of the City of Chilliwack bylaws.

Chilliwack has also been involved in an action plan on homelessness.