THERE ARE THINGS we do because of bylaws, and then there are things we do just because they are the right thing to do.
We have bylaws for dog licenses, noise, and unsightly premises.
Have you noticed that, even though there are no bylaws for public seating, pretty well everywhere you go, businesses provide some. Go to a bank, a dentist office, or a hair salon. They all have seating for people waiting for service. Go to a restaurant, a theatre lobby, or a tire store. Chances are they have seating for waiting customers as well.
City of Kamloops facilities are no different. Go to Kamloops City Hall, or their other offices, such as Development Services or Public Works, and you will find seating in their waiting areas. Go to City playgrounds, splash parks or hiking trails, and there are benches. Take a bus, and you’ll find benches along the route.
Public seating in private businesses and in City of Kamloops venues is the norm. It’s not there because of bylaws. It’s there because it’s the decent thing to do. People can only stand so long, and sitting on the ground is usually difficult or uncomfortable to do.
Pretty well all public facilities of the City of Kamloops have seating for the public waiting for service or using the facilities. It’s not surprising. There isn’t a bylaw saying there should be seating. It’s just the decent thing to do.
Which makes it all the more surprising that there are no benches at the storage and laundry facilities for homeless people in Kamloops at First Avenue and Victoria Street West across from City Hall. The City of Kamloops provides the building and the funding for the service. The City pays a non-profit agency to run the service, but it is clearly a City service.
On any given day, people can be seen sitting on the sidewalk in front of the building.
Some are waiting for their turn to pick up or drop off their belongings. Others are waiting to see a nurse. Some wait for showers, washrooms or laundry services. Others are just waiting.
There are no benches, so when they wait, they’re sitting on the sidewalk. They could stand. But it’s no easier for them to stand for long periods of time than for anyone else to stand for long periods of time. So they sit on the ground.
Not providing seating sends a strong message to them that they don’t belong there, that they should move on. Except that the City has specifically designed the service for homeless people in our community to use that requires people using it to wait. If the City can provide seating for people waiting for other services, shouldn’t they provide seating for homeless people waiting for services too?
Seating is not required to be provided. There are no bylaws saying it is a requirement. It’s just the decent thing to do.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.