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EDITORIAL – What to do about people who ‘hang out’ in public spaces

Where the stairs used to be. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

A STAIRCASE ON SEYMOUR STREET WEST will be removed after a decision by Kamloops City council. One of the reasons is to discourage certain people from “hanging out” there, as City Hall puts it.

Whether taking the stairs out will make any difference remains to be seen, but nearby residents signed a petition, so it’s going to happen.

We do a lot of things these days because of what we consider the wrong kinds of people hanging out. Several years ago there were too many benches and decorative boulders on Victoria Street for the “wrong” kinds of people to hang out on, so measures were taken.

Before the stairs were removed. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

At the main branch of the library and the art gallery, the plaza at the entrance became a favourite hangout for street people and those scoring drugs. A partial answer was to play loud classical music. The reconstruction of the entrance, reducing outdoor space, has also helped.

Washrooms at public buildings, cafes and coffee shops require constant vigil because of the disgusting things some people from off the street do in them.

Whether it be public buildings, public parks and now even public access, they can’t simply be designed according to what looks and works the best. They have to minimize inappropriate behaviour.

Let’s be clear in saying the homeless and the addicted and the unstable need to be cared for. They’re human beings.

If we could end poverty, properly house all street people, help every addict kick their addictions, and return them to what we consider the mainstream, we could reclaim our public spaces the way they were meant to be.

That’s not going to happen any time soon. So, in the meantime, we tear down staircases and haul away benches.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6934 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – What to do about people who ‘hang out’ in public spaces

  1. Beverley Campbell // September 20, 2019 at 9:22 AM // Reply

    I must agree with Pierre, marginalized people are still people and we should be providing a place for them to congregate during the day, generally sleeping places for the homeless are not available during the day, why can’t we set aside a welcoming day place, coffee on, warmth provided, help in the offing if desired?

  2. Ultimately, a society, and its worth, are most appropriately evaluated by the way in which it treats, and cares for, its weakest members. Even wolf packs are driven by this prime directive.

    Has our “civilization“ regressed to such a point that the privileged and entitled have forgotten, or worse still, choose to deliberately ignore, this basic precept?

  3. Can’t blame the average citizen for being concerned and leery however if compassion and empathy were in abundance we would prepare a strategy and create programs to provide for those in need. I don’t think people chose to be miserable, poor and marginalized but life circumstances sometimes can be very difficult to face alone. And it can get from bad to worse quite easily because the “wrong help” is easily available…but what if the “right help” was also easily available? What about if society’s priorities are re-assessed and fundings for the “right help” can be found? Do we need a parkade cladded with a fancy facade? Do we need more tax cuts and tax loop holes for the jet-set crowd? Or do we need less despair throughout our society?
    Council could’ve chose to stand on higher ground in my opinion, and make a strong statement for higher authorities to hear.

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