A police officer brings his bike to a halt as he does a double take on the people who squat along Leon Avenue during one of their routine street checks. (David Venn - Capital News)

Okanagan homeless claim they are assaulted ‘regularly’ by police, public

Everyone has their ‘breaking point’: bylaw manager David Gazely

Part four of a five-part series on the homeless and how the stigma associated with being homeless directly affects the relationships between authorities, public space and themselves.

People who experience homelessness claim they are assaulted and verbally abused by authorities and even pedestrians.

Harold Smoke, a man with lived experience of homelessness, said it happens almost daily from RCMP and City of Kelowna bylaw officers.

“(Authorities) literally tease them and say, ‘Oh I’m going home to my bed tonight, where are you staying?’ ” said Smoke, who is now housed. “How do you deal with that?”

Kelowna bylaw stated there have been rumours of assaults taking place, but “there (has been) no documented criminal charges ever laid by the police against one of our bylaw officers for assaulting a homeless person,” according to bylaw department manager David Gazely.

Gazely said often bylaw officers are subjected to assault and abuse by people who experience homelessness, citing that officers are often spat at, pushed and had their vehicles damaged.

According to Gazely, officers also have found homemade weapons, bear spray, machetes and axes in shopping carts.

“Everyone is different in their tolerance level and how much they can actually take in terms of what their breaking point may be,” Gazely said.

“I strongly believe that our officers maintain their composure as best they can under the circumstances and only react in a defensive manner if they have reason to believe they are at risk of personal bodily harm.”

READ MORE: Part 1: From homeless to housed: A Kelowna woman’s journey

Kelowna RCMP did not deny or confirm that physical or verbal assaults do occur.

“If someone has concerns about the manner in which they were treated by any officer of the RCMP, there are complaint processes in place through which they can bring forward their concerns,” stated Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.

However, those who claim to have been assaulted and are experiencing homelessness, often do not bother trying the formal process.

“Who are they going to believe — a homeless person? A homeless drug addict sleeping in a park…possible overdose?” said Jared Charles Dayley, a 24-year-old man who now lives in Cornerstone shelter.

According to those interviewed who experience homelessness, they believe the system is pitted against them and if they were to file a complaint, it would be apt to fail.

This, Dayley claimed, does not only adhere to reporting incidents of assault from authorities; it also includes ordinary citizens.

The idea that Kelowna residents are to blame for harassing people who experience homelessness is something that Cornerstone case manager and a member of Journey Home’s lived experience group James Smith would agree with, saying it is a bigger issue than people realize and that there are some “pretty scary stories out there.”

“Unfortunately, the way most of society looks at people that are living on the street is that they are second rate,” Smith said.

“So if they are getting beat up by the cops, it doesn’t matter (because) they’re just homeless drug addicts.”

READ MORE: Part 2: We don’t deserve to sit beside ‘normal people’: Kelowna homeless

READ MORE: Part 3: Kelowna Homeless fight for freedom of possessions, clash with bylaw

“Some have said they have never been beaten up, spit on and treated so badly,” said Wanda MacKinnon, a member of the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness.

“And it seems to be OK to do that to a homeless person here.”



David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack on the map for Salmon Arm Roots and Blues

Canadian music legends confirmed for 28th annual music festival

Ministry investigating need for highway barriers between Summerland and Peachland

Petition to install barriers garners nearly 15,000 signatures in just days

Priest Camp near Summerland was created in 1845

Agreement formed between Grand Chief Nicola (1793-1859) and Father Giovanni Nobili (1812-1856)

COLUMN: Choosing a face to show the world

It will not be easy to select the face to display on Canada’s new $5 bill

Summerland Steam lose twice in Junior B hockey action

Next action for Junior B hockey team is on Friday, Jan. 17 in Summerland

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

North Okanagan woman pleas for return of stolen scooter

‘It’s been another kick in the teeth… how do you get ahead and keep your head above water?’

Police search for owner of another icy sailboat on Okanagan Lake

The frozen vessel was spotted near the 800 block of Manhattan Drive in Kelowna

Volunteer spends hundreds of hours restoring piece of railway history

Revelstoke Railway Museum now home to an authentic Kalamazzo No. 2 Section Handcar

Future of Penticton francophone school secured following funding announcement

$11.5M in funding means École Entre-lacs now independently owned and operated

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

City of Vernon to redirect reclaimed water into Okanagan Lake

MacKay Reservoir nears capacity; city to reflow water into lake near Kin Beach

Most Read