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

Just Posted

Word on the street: What is your strategy for not spending too much on Christmas gifts this year?

The Observer asked: What is your strategy for not spending too much on Christmas gifts this year?

People who are homeless in Salmon Arm provide consultants with key information

Urban Matters consultants gather information from ‘experts’ as they work on housing strategy

Map points to mysterious ‘Waterdome’ in the middle of Salmon Arm Bay

City would like to have map marker removed, pilot recalls its significance

43-acre property donated in memory of Shuswap man

Land along Eagle River to be named Ken Ritchie Park

Ski with Santa fundraiser and beginner trail opening coming to Larch Hills

Tour of new trail to take place on Dec. 28, followed by annual Lantern Ski

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Healing with honesty: Justice served 40 years later

Revelstoke senior gets house arrest for sexually assaulting stepdaughter

WorkSafe BC to investigate explosion at Princeton facility

Explosion at Envirogreen waste reclamation plant occurred Nov. 27

Doors open to Vernon’s first refill store

Vernon’s Refill Store may be answer to plastics problem

Okanagan RCMP not toying around when it comes to impaired drivers

Saturday, Dec. 7 is National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day

Most Read