Banning shopping carts in Vernon is a positive step in ending a growing conflict between local businesses and the homeless, according to a city councilor.
On Monday, city council agreed to support a ban of commercial shopping carts on public property in the business improvement area. The ban was one of 46 recommendations made by the Activate Safety Task Force. Several recommendations accepted by council, while many other recommendations were debated.
The aim of the shopping cart recommendation was to prevent unsightly, abandoned shopping carts from cluttering public space and potentially blocking the use of city amenities, such as sidewalks and benches.
However, the majority of council decided it wanted to go further and ban the carts on all public property in the city.
“In my opinion, the majority of the people on the street need some form of help and the way they access that help is through our service providers. We have fantastic service providers in this community and they work out of the shelters,” councillor Brian Quiring said.
“I’m of the belief that when you allow people to take one, two or three shopping carts and fill it with all of their belongings, they have the potential then to set up a camp somewhere and not access a shelter, and I’m of the hope that by requiring people to have limited belongings or possessions, that that will encourage them to get into a shelter where they can access services.”
According to the city, the next step will be drafting a bylaw for a future council meeting, probably in September.
The task force was created to address growing concerns the business community had with homelessness and social issues. Like many cities throughout North America, Vernon has its share of homeless people pushing their belongings around in a shopping cart.
“It does send the message that ‘Look, we’re serious about this.’ If you want to drag around three shopping carts full of junk and then leave them on somebody’s property, you’ll have to either modify that behavior or find a jurisdiction where you can do that,” said councilor Scott Anderson.
Council is also requiring that retailers use theft protection for their shopping carts; that retailers dispose of decommissioned carts at their own expense; that retailers recover abandoned carts when identified; and that bylaw enforce the new rule for repeated non-compliance.
Council also supported the recommendation that the city hire three new fulltime bylaw officers dedicated to seasonal foot/bike patrols in so-called ‘trouble spots.’ Council also is asking Vernon RCMP to expand its downtown enforcement.
“The idea is that most of these street-entrenched people are in that area, the downtown on the other side of the highway,” said Vernon mayor Akbal Mund. “So by having a presence starting out there in the morning, it just provides those uniforms on the street that the task force was looking for.”
For more on what city council on Vernon decided on, click here.