City backtracks on begging/busking bylaw

City council is on board with staff's plans for a community-wide communications plan to educate people on how best to support panhandlers.

That recommendation was approved at council's meeting on Monday, after plans to fine people for giving spare change were met with public criticism earlier this year.

A point of focus was Kirschner Road, which has seen a spike in unsafe and illegal behaviour, with many people soliciting bottles outside the recycling depot.

Protective Services Director Rob Mayne confirmed that Columbia Bottle Depot will be closing its doors on Kirschner later this year.

"Their lease has not been extended, so they're in search of property. They have not reached out to the city to assist in that, but of course if they did, we'd help support that, and identify areas that are zoned appropriate."

Councillor Gail Given reflected on that news.

"The really sad part is that I suspect the pressure on their landlord to remove them from the street comes from all the bad behaviour that was there because we didn't actually have bylaws in place to deal with the bottle collection guys," she said.

"It is a challenge. We may not have all the tools in place that we need, but I think we have enough that we can control it."

The "bottle collection guys" refers to people who frequent the street, and according to the city, some of whom have created an atmosphere of intimidation where they take a percentage of recyclables that are donated to others.

She warned that it doesn't matter where the depot ends up moving to, because the people will follow.

"When they leave, the problem doesn't leave, it just relocates. So I know we will be needing additional resources wherever they relocate to. But any further consultation is being done in collaboration/cooperation with the Journey Home task force. So this isn't just strictly an enforcement bylaw, but done from a collaborative - let's fix the real problem. Which is housing first."

Housing first is an initiative endorsed by the city, which aims to provide people who are vulnerable or homeless with attainable housing, before addressing personal and health issues.

Another change in plan comes on the issue of buskers.

Staff have been granted the chance to further consult with Festivals Kelowna and the arts community, as the city reviews the entire busking program.