City of Barrie tries to clear the air ahead of council by-law votes regarding homelessness

The city says agencies, non-profits and individuals would still be able to distribute tents, food and tarps, but just not on city-owned property

Barrie city councillors will vote on a pair of by-laws Wednesday night that many advocates feel are an attack on those experiencing homelessness in the community.

The by-laws are part of a more comprehensive motion to deal with chronic homelessness that was approved 11-0 by council last month.

On Tuesday evening, a number of tents were pitched outside of Barrie City Hall by Ryan’s Hope, an organization that receives no government funding and provides a breakfast program as well as a five-day-a-week street outreach to those experiencing homelessness.

Nayler told Barrie 360 that if the by-laws pass they will have to end the street outreach.

On Tuesday afternoon, the city issued what it said was a fact sheet to help the public understand Bill 67 and Bill 68.

“On May 17, 2023, Barrie City Council passed a motion directing staff to investigate and take action on a series of initiatives aimed at addressing the chronic homeless situation in Barrie and creating a safer community for everyone,” the city said in a news release “One part of the motion was to make changes to the City’s by-laws, protocols, and processes to prohibit the use or distribution of tents or tarps in public parks or on public lands and prohibit the distribution of food and grocery products in public spaces.”

FAQs

The city provided these answers:

Do the proposed by-law amendments prohibit agencies, non-profit organizations, or individuals from distributing food, water, tents, etc. within the community?

No, agencies, non-profit organizations or individuals would continue to be able to distribute from their own properties or property other than city-owned property. The amendments, if adopted, would only apply to distribution occurring on city-owned property.

What is City property?

City Property includes parks, open spaces, urban squares, sports fields, parking lots, vacant or other lands owned or managed by the City of Barrie. It also includes a highway, roadway,
sidewalk, pedestrian way, boulevard, or watercourse.

How does this impact local service agencies that distribute food and supplies?

The by-law provisions only apply to distributing from city property. Organizations would be able to continue their food outreach programs on their own property or any property in the
community not owned by the city where permission for such distribution to occur has been
granted.

Should the amendments to the city’s by-laws be passed, the agencies that the city is aware of that use city property will be advised of the changes to the by-laws and that distributing food or supplies will no longer be permitted on or from city property.

Can I have a picnic in the park with friends and share food?

Picnics in the park or other gatherings with friends or family where food is shared would
continue to be allowed. The by-law amendments would apply to organized food or supplies
distribution, not a picnic.

How will the by-law amendments, if adopted, be enforced?

As always, Municipal Law Enforcement’s approach will be to educate individuals and
organizations about the by-law provisions and seek voluntary compliance. As is the case with most by-laws, penalties may be applied if individuals do not voluntarily comply

Will the public have the opportunity to provide feedback on the changes implemented?

A Public Meeting of the Community Safety Committee to review actions taken to date has been scheduled for Tuesday September 19, 2023.

Can you sleep in a tent at a public park or on other city property?

You are not permitted to set up camp or to sleep overnight on city property under the city’s
existing by-laws.

Are the restrictions on distributing food and supplies on city property new?

No, the current by-law prohibits individuals or corporations from distributing food and supplies on city property but does allow charitable organizations to do so. The change is to extend the prohibition to all organizations.

I want to help unhoused people in Barrie, how can I best do that?

Consider, donating your money or time to local service agencies that provide support.

Barrie 360 reported on the motion that was passed by city council on May 17. The complete motion follows:

1. That the Chief Administrative Officer consider/utilize the following options to address chronic homelessness and enhance public safety in the City of Barrie:

a) Request Funding from the Province of Ontario for:

  1. additional financial support for the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic to provide more beds an to increase the hours of operation; and
  2. for a similar organization that provides long-term counselling and treatment.

b) Approve funding for the following:

  1. a Family Re-unification Fund to pay for the transportation costs and help re-unite individuals with families or support groups.
  2. the operation of a shuttle service for individuals released from the Central North Correctional Centre;
  3. a Cooling and Warming Centre for at-risk individuals and the provision of daily meal programs that are currently being offered on public lands and in public parks over multiple years;
  4. to the Salvation Army or a similar organization to support a lunch program; and
  5. for food security programs through local agencies to reduce the needs associated with panhandling.

c) Request permanent funding from the Province of Ontario and the County of Simcoe for the County of Simcoe’s mobile outreach pilot program in downtown Barrie, if deemed to be successful by the City of Barrie and the County of Simcoe.

d) Changes to the City’s By-laws, protocols, and processes to:

  1. prohibit the use or distribution of tents or tarps in public parks or on public lands without a permit;
  2. prohibit the distribution of food and grocery products in public spaces without the use of a permit; and
  3. reduce the time required to address camping in parks and storage of goods in parks or public spaces.

e) Methods to prohibit the payment to panhandlers on City Streets, intersections, and highway ramps.

f) The placement of signs on City off-ramps to discourage panhandling or financial support thereof and encouraging donations to local social service agencies.

g) Work with the County of Simcoe and Province of Ontario on ways to build more supportive housing for community members experiencing adverse mental health or addictions.

h) Appeal to the County of Simcoe for funding to help individuals transition from unemployment to employment through training opportunities.

i) Schedule a public meeting to be held at the Community Safety Committee regarding the chronic homelessness, addictions and mental health supports in the City of Barrie.

j) Have staff apply for any provincial or federal funding opportunities available to support the options outlined this motion.

2. That funding of up to $825,000 per annum for 2 years from the Re-Investment Reserve be made available to fund any of the options detailed in paragraph 1 that are undertaken, as required.

3. That, if necessary, the Chief Administrative Officer be authorized to waive the City’s purchasing by-law to award any items or services required to undertake the options listed in paragraph 1.

4. That the Chief Administrative Officer provide quarterly updates to the Community Safety Committee regarding the effectiveness of the options that are undertaken as part of this motion.

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