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Council OKs tent ban, funding for 'stab-proof vests' for staff

Ban in response to homeless encampments applies to structures on city property; It's 'a pretty sensitive issue,' councillor says
The Orillia Fire Department and Orillia OPP visited local homeless encampments in February to provide safety tips.

The city is cracking down on encampments on municipal property, and some of its bylaw officers will be suiting up in more protective equipment.

At its meeting Monday, council committee approved a staff recommendation that prohibits people from setting up and using “any structure, tent, or shelter of any kind on any city-owned or -leased property.”

That does not apply to structures approved by the city’s general manager of corporate services/city solicitor or by council relating to council-approved special events.

Council also agreed to staff’s request for $9,000 in funding for the purchase of personal protective equipment.

Shawn Crawford, the city’s director of legislative, building, parking and transit services, noted the money will be used to buy “ballistic/stab-proof vests” for bylaw enforcement officers who respond to certain situations.

More municipalities are providing that type of equipment now than in previous years, he said, noting the vests would be worn not by, for example, officers handing out parking tickets, but rather for those dealing with encampments or instances “where known safety risks could be involved.”

Coun. David Campbell referred to the matter as “a pretty sensitive issue.”

“In some cases, the enforcement is necessary. We also have to keep in mind that we’re representing our constituents, who are sometimes facing issues,” he said, but added the city has to give bylaw enforcement staff “the tools they need to do their jobs.”

Coun. Tim Lauer called the encampment situation “the most challenging issue” he has dealt with during his time on council.

Last year, he noted, if there was an encampment on private property, the city had to notify the landowner and wait for that person to ask the city to deal with it. He asked if that was still the case.

Crawford said the city is taking the same approach as it did last year. It issues notices to the property owners, and if they contact the city and want the encampments removed, the municipality tells them to call police because it is a matter of trespassing.

Issues with encampments — from complaint to resolution — are usually dealt with within a week, Crawford said. A recent situation in an area off of Atherley Road, however, took longer than expected to resolve, he added.

Coun. Ralph Cipolla suggested it “might be wise” to look into a ban on people soliciting money on city property, too. Crawford said staff hasn’t looked into that but would be willing to if directed by council.


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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