For Daniel Collerette living on city streets and sleeping in back alleys is not a matter of choice.
Last week, in response to the City of Penticton’s Good Neighbour bylaw amendment, which is going before council Tuesday, the former Quebec resident took his protest to the Main Street steps of city hall.
For him the last straw was chaining off of a portion of Nanaimo Square for use by a local business resulting in moving people who used to sit there, many of who like himself, simply had nowhere else to go.
“I’m here (city hall) because they’re putting people outside of downtown which is not any better, it’s not the solution they’re just going to have the same problems somewhere else,” said Collerette sitting with his dog beside the large cart with all their belongings. “Everywhere I go now somebody calls the police or bylaw because I’m homeless and they come along and say ‘you need to move,’ but where do we go?
“There is no miracle solution, but this is not something better doing this.”
The amendment would allow bylaw officers to ticket and fine individuals sitting or lying on the sidewalks of several downtown streets from May to Sept. 30.
Some members of council have said the bylaw’s intent is not to move the homeless out of the downtown and city staff has said the fines would only be used as a last resort. Collerette feels this treatment by officials because he is homeless, is like that of a criminal.
“The RCMP they put my stuff in a container and tell me if I don’t leave they will put me in jail but at the end of the day they need to put me outside because being homeless is not a crime,” he said, adding he’s seeing more and more homeless in Penticton each year. “A cop said to me ‘go to your own town.’ Well, I am Canadian and Penticton is in Canada, I can live here.”
Collerette, who works as a fruit picker in the summer and has camped in the bush for the past two winters, said up until a few months ago he had been living in a motel until the manger told him his rent was going from $750 to $1,400 a month.
He and his dog, Bridget, now spend their nights camped at the back of the downtown BMO office building.
Collerette’s message to council: “There needs to be more housing people can afford. There are lots of people with drug addiction problems, alcohol problems and needles everywhere, I understand that but there needs to be housing for these people before you can help them. They are not going to go away, just disappear.”
Collerette has his name on a waiting list so if and when a place comes available at one of the affordable housing projects he and Bridget may once again have a home.
“How long will that be?” he asked. “Will it be three months, four months? Where do we go until then?”