Issues arising from homeless camps and individuals in the Town of Qualicum Beach are causing a high demand for the services of the bylaw enforcement officer. - NEWS file photo

Qualicum Beach struggling to keep up with growing homeless population

Growing homeless population requires more attention from town’s only bylaw officer

During the past three years, the Town of Qualicum Beach has seen an increase in its homeless and transient population, which is causing a higher demand for the time and attention of the town’s single bylaw enforcement officer.

Town of Qualicum Beach planner Luke Sales told council at a regular meeting on April 8 that with the increase of homeless individuals, there are stresses placed on existing services to manage the associated risks. Public safety risks that stem from homeless camps and people include fire hazards, discarded needles and fecal matter and urine that require removal.

“Public safety concerns are the top priority to our bylaw enforcement department and this concern was highlighted in 2018 when a citizen was injured stepping on a used syringe,” Sales said. “The town does only have one bylaw enforcement officer and that has remained consistent, so a lot of the work done by our bylaw department has been shifted towards minding some of the homeless sites that occur through the town.”

RELATED: Woman steps on dirty needle in Qualicum Beach

RELATED: Town of Qualicum Beach calls on province to take action

Homeless individuals, Sales said, tend to frequent areas of town including forested areas of the Community Park, the Heritage Forest and the Berwick well fields.

A 2018 homeless count co-ordinated by the province found that 42 people were identified as experiencing homelessness from Nanoose Bay to Bowser.

RELATED: New data gives insight into Parksville Qualicum Beach-area homeless community

Sales said the time required by the town’s bylaw officer to attend these types of calls increased significantly over the spring and summer months last year and the town anticipates a slight to moderate increase in 2019. He added that with the added attention to public safety issues, the bylaw officer may have to focus less on other issues.

“So you’ve seen a displacement of some of those previous responsibilities as more time is spent on homelessness,” Sales said.

A report made by Don Marshall, the town’s bylaw officer, states that the time needed for one bylaw officer to patrol and address homeless issues in summer 2019, would be approximately 10 to 20 hours per week.

“This time could increase depending on the specific circumstances and the number of incidents that arise,” reads the report. “Given the town has one bylaw officer, this could significantly impact the other services and areas of duties that fall within the bylaw department.”

Coun. Adam Walker made a motion that council direct staff to revise the 2019 budget to allow for increased bylaw enforcement required to address issues around homelessness without increasing the tax rate.

“We have a growing problem in this community and it’s not something we can pretend isn’t there…it will take a lot of our bylaw enforcement officer’s time this summer and I don’t want to see that at expense of enforcing other bylaws,” Walker said. “We don’t have to have the budget done until May 15, I don’t think this will be a tremendously expensive undertaking for the summer to increase our bylaw enforcement. I don’t want to see something as simple as bylaw enforcement brushed under the rug and have that affect the quality of life of our citizens.”

The motion was defeated by a 4-1 vote.

Coun. Robert Filmer believes the town needs to start looking at the “bigger picture” in regards to the bylaw department.

“When our bylaw officer chooses to retire and leave the town what are we going to be doing?” Filmer said. “I don’t think it is very fair for the bylaw officer to be dealing with stuff like this on his own. [The report] says he’s dealing with fecal matter and bottles of urine.”

The town’s CAO Daniel Sailland added that many times the bylaw officer doesn’t work in complete isolation.

“When calls come in there’s a number of different parties that get involved,” Sailland said. “Very often it is a bylaw issue and bylaw does take the lead but there are a number of our parks department (members) that get involved… where necessary the RCMP will provide support and when we get to the matter of urine and fecal matter being handled, we actually have a contractor trained in hazmat.”

The town’s deputy chief administrator, John Marsh, advised council to go with the current budget as presented and wait on making any amendments.

Coun. Scott Harrison agreed that waiting and making a plan to address the bylaw department in the budget rather than making a decision at the council meeting.

“I’m not certain we should be playing with the budget in council meetings on the fly like this,” he said. “I think we’re better served having a more measured approach.”

Mayor Brian Wiese said in the past, the town has had the opportunity to go to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s bylaw enforcement officer for assistance when required and that’s something they may do in the future.

“I think tonight, I find it hard to support the motion, but I support the cause,” Wiese said.

Just Posted

It’s here: tackling opioid addiction in Ladysmith

Nine overdose deaths in two years “pretty alarming considering this is a small town”

Vancouver Island man celebrates 50th year by running 50 km race — monthly

Ultrarunner hopes Deep 50 Challenge will raise $5,000 for Help Fill A Dream

Alternative paths to health: How one Vancouver Island woman is taking control of her cancer treatments

Many Canadians try at least one form of complementary treatment during their cancer journey

Editorial: Plenty of alternatives to plastic straws

Plastics have their place in our society, but right now there are far too many of them

Parliament Hill 4-20 organizers predict record crowd after legalization

A celebration? Yes, but organizers say concerns remain about the government’s decisions on legalization rollout

VIDEO: Vancouver Island fish farmers launch $30-million vessel to treat farmed salmon for sea lice

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Parents say Austrian climber missing in Banff National Park ‘lived his dream’

David Lama, Hansjorg Auer and American climber Jess Roskelley have been missing since Wednesday

Six months after legalization, high prices and supply issues boost illicit pot market

It has been six months since Canada became the first industrialized country to legalize recreational cannabis

Cougars spotted in Sproat Lake neighbourhoods

ACRD director warns residents to keep children, pets close

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Most Read