Paul Braun sits next to where he used to panhandle — now occupied by the recycling bin he leans on — after the City of Penticton moved the garbage and recycling bins to his and others’ usual panhandling spot. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Penticton panhandler not deterred by trash

City staff moved trash and recycling bins into a regular panhandling spot to deter the practice

A Penticton man isn’t letting trash get in the way of his panhandling on Main Street.

After the City of Penticton moved a trash and recycling bin to his and others’ regular panhandling spot at the Main Street breezeway, Paul Braun was spotted this week sitting next to the spot, leaning against one of the bins.

The bins showed up the day after bylaw officers came by the spot, where he had been eating chicken and fries, Braun said.

“I says ‘until I see it on the news that the B.C. government has ruled it illegal to sit on the sidewalk and eat chicken, I’m not moving anywhere. Next day I come down, these are here,” Braun said.

Related: Short trial time raises concerns in Penticton panhandling case

The city and Braun have been in a legal battle over eight infractions of the Good Neighbour Bylaw, which prohibits panhandling within 10 metres of a sheltered public walkway.

Braun previously had eight tickets, but the city said it has discarded those tickets in favour of court action, and hopes to get a court order against Braun panhandling in that space.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking. The worst part is I have a lot of people coming to me apologizing for what the city’s doing. They’re so embarrassing. And there’s no reason the citizens should have to apologize; it’s them,” he added, pointing toward city hall. “So stupid you have to laugh at it.”

Related: Five years, 34 panhandling tickets, three people in Penticton

Braun noted one of the lights in the breezeway had been blocked out, questioning the reason for it.

“In the evening, when it’s dark, it’s so easy for somebody to crouch down behind this garbage can here, and start shooting up, and nobody on the street can see them,” Braun said.

“It reminds me of a bunch of kids in the park. One’s throwing a temper tantrum and saying ‘I’m taking my ball and going home.’”

The city’s chief administrative officer Peter Weeber said the breezeway is “a well-known panhandling and party spot throughout the fairweather months,” and actions taken there are part of a larger strategy.

Related: Lawyer takes aim at City of Penticton’s ‘war on the homeless’

“We will be looking at additional measures to ensure the use of this area is limited to pedestrians accessing the street and parking,” Weeber said.

“The strategic placement of city infrastructure will continue to be used to change behaviours and reduce crime where possible.”

The measures are part of a “multi-disciplinary approach” called crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), which is intended to deter behaviours deemed undesirable by altering the environment.

Related: City manager wants to brighten downtown

“The city will be implementing a number of CPTED strategies city-wide in the coming months starting with the downtown area,” Weeber said.

That includes changes to street and alley lighting, including adding flood lights in designated areas, thinning tree canopy in high-crime areas and increasing patrols by RCMP, bylaw and private security.

Weeber said the city will also be partnering up with things like the downtown association, the chamber of commerce and others to identify areas deemed problematic, as well as with B.C. Housing to bridge supports with those in need.

Related: City of Penticton taking homeless man to court

But Braun said moving the garbage bins, which he said are bolted to the ground, was passive aggressive.

“Bolting it tells me it’s a permanent structure. I wonder if they had a (building) permit,” he said with a tone of sarcasm. “Oh, I forgot, the city’s above the law. Because that’s why they’re allowed to put that panhandling post there,” he added, pointing to the kindness meter about two metres away from Braun.

Bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert reasserted the kindness meter, which has now raised over $3,000 in its first year, is intended to provide donations for 100 Homes Penticton.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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