An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
AFTER WRITING ABOUT the need for a made-in-Kamloops solution to social disorder, I received a couple of comments of the, “if you’re so smart, how would you fix it?” variety.
If I had the answer myself I’d hang up a shingle and go into consulting. The whole point of the Saturday column was that the solution lies in the collective wisdom of the community and it’s time we got that wisdom together in one place and used it.
But there’s a good place to start that seems to be hard for those in power to acknowledge. Here’s what I mean.
The new shelter at the old Greyhound Bus deport opened last month. It seems to me that, since then, the neighbourhood around the shelter has been disrupted.
It shouldn’t be a surprise. It certainly happened on Victoria Street West and on the Columbia Street hill motel row. The Tranquille corridor has its own issues. Westmount residents near the Moira House shelter are worried it will happen there as well.
The obvious conclusion is that where shelter or ad hoc social housing initiatives occur, the quality of life in the immediate vicinity experiences stress. Needles, abandoned shopping carts, garbage and break-ins become too common. Maybe it’s just a few who give the rest a bad name but we can’t deny there’s a negative impact.
Well, you might say, they deserve a roof over their heads. And that’s absolutely true but neighborhoods deserve peace and safety.
The current strategy, or lack thereof, results in better conditions for the homeless but, too often, worse conditions for those who already live in a neighbourhood. The rights and needs of the street folks are consistently put ahead of neighbourhoods.
So how about we start with this: no temporary shelter or supportive housing shall be located where there is likelihood of a negative impact on the security of a neighbourhood. Then, build a plan from there.
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 email@example.com.