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.
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 email@example.com.