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 ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.