An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
HOCKEY OR HOMELESS? That appears to be the choice right now when it comes to Memorial Arena.
Hockey kids are shut out of the arena while BC Housing looks for alternative accommodation for 50 homeless folks as winter approaches. It’s hard for anyone to argue that those 50 people should be kicked out into the cold in favour of the normal use of the arena for recreation, but some history is in order.
In May of 2020, with the pandemic raging and hockey suspended, it seemed like a good idea to turn the arena into a temporary shelter. It was supposed to last for a few weeks, maybe until the end of June.
More than a year later, the arena was still in use as a shelter, and City council unanimously extended BC Housing’s lease on the building, indefinitely. What else was council supposed to do? How do you vote to give the boot to homeless folks who need a place to lay their heads at night?
But it’s now October and there’s no sign that BC Housing has been able to find an alternative. There are several private options but they would have to be properly configured with washrooms, kitchens and storage facilities, and who knows where BC Housing is with that?
The agency hardly needs to feel any sense of urgency since it now has no deadline.
One can’t help but think back to the City’s botched application for provincial COVID funding that could have provided a million dollars more than was received. Kelowna got a lot more of that money and has put a good piece of it into temporary shelter for its own homeless population.
So what to do? Nothing, really, other than wait on BC Housing. In the meantime, all our City fathers and mothers can do is try to figure out how they got into this mess, and how to stop it from happening again.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
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.