EDITORIAL – Columbia Street West is not the place to put social housing

(Image: CFJC Today)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WE OFTEN LIKE TO REFER to street people, the addicted and the down-and-out as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles.

It’s our way of being respectful, of recognizing that they’re human beings and deserving of help when they need it. And that’s absolutely true but this is also true: not all of those mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles are good people.

They live life rough, and consequently they don’t live by our norms. On the street, they sometimes act out, yelling, loitering, aggressively panhandling. Some are drug addicted, some are violent.

Not all; some.

Their behaviour is inconsistent with family life in a neighbourhood, so we have to be careful where we house them. Just as the folks we’re talking about deserve help, more advantaged folks deserve to live safely and in peace and quiet.

Columbia Street West in the 500 and 600 blocks was recently disrupted by two serious police incidents that locked down the neighbourhood. One involved a shooting, the other a domestic dispute.

Nearby Beattie elementary school had to be secured.

That part of Columbia Street West grew up as a pleasant strip of hotels, popular with tourists but also locals who patronized the restaurants.

Nowadays, if you pass through that area, there are street people strolling about, sitting on curbs or congregating. Due partly to COVID-19 and the drop in tourism, and partly because of housing needs, these folks are currently living in hotel rooms there.

Some of those properties could use upgrades.

Residents are worried. Parents are worried. They report thefts and drug activity, defecation and needles on the school playground.

There will be letters and meetings and committees. One thing is clear — we need to look after these people, but housing them in hotels near schools is not the place to do it.

City council shouldn’t even think about rezoning the area to legalize long-term rentals.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (8559 Articles) 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 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.

4 Comments on EDITORIAL – Columbia Street West is not the place to put social housing

  1. Jennie Frances Kolek // October 28, 2020 at 11:03 AM // Reply

    I agree with Pierre. Which area is suitable? NIMBY. I get the safety concerns, but they will be the same no matter where the ‘social housing’ is built. What is the solution?

  2. Perhaps sooner than later, Mayor Ken and staff should take a more proactive role in risk assessment and due diligence.
    If there is a fatality of a student or school staff member due to a shooting (projectiles can travel several hundred metres) involving one of these places, you can pretty well bet the lawyers and court system will be involved. Will it come down to SD73 vs the municipality or will there also be individual and/or class action lawsuits filed?
    It isn’t as if there have not been enough warning signs.

  3. Good question Pierre. The piece sounds a lot like NIMBY to me. I read once that the Mayor said somewhat the same about Stewart Wood School yard in about 2017. If not these motels, where then??

  4. I just wonder which area you think would be suitable to house people not bound to the norms of “normality” whatever that is.

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