AND I’M BACK. My last column with the Armchair Mayor was April 6, 2022. That was the week before I declared I was running for a seat on Kamloops City Council.
So here I am.
My columns going forward will likely be a bit different than before. When I was on the outside, I sometimes praised but often wrote columns critical of Kamloops City Hall.
Now the gig is different. I may need to defend a decision made by council that some in the community aren’t happy with. Conversely, if a decision of Council as a whole isn’t one I agree with, I will still say so. I’ll try to avoid too much self-congratulations.
My biggest opportunity now is to describe more of the pros and cons behind the decisions, and competing forces that led to directions taken.
Case in point is the City’s response to supporting homeless people in our community in the cold weather months. Yesterday in Council, Carmin Mazzotta, Social, Housing, and Community Development Manager for the City of Kamloops, presented to Council.
He described how shelter services are the responsibility of BC Housing and their service providers, but there are many others involved, including the City of Kamloops which is providing space at Stuart Wood and at the Yacht Club.
The City is working closely with BC Housing, service providers like Mustard Seed and Out of the Cold, Interior Health, RCMP, and other agencies to support the creation and running of cold weather shelter services in the City. It is a joint effort which takes continual communication.
One day, the shuttle bus might not be working, another day there might be problems staffing a shelter. Every day, the different groups work to keep things working.
Despite currently having just over 200 shelter beds available in Kamloops there are still gaps.
Worst of all, even with 200 shelter beds available, there is a need for up to 60 more spaces. Work is underway to not only Cold Weather shelters, but also Extreme Weather shelters to support the additional folks.
Actually, what is really needed is not more shelter beds, but more housing. Without housing available, there is a rotating door of shelter to streets back to shelter and back again to streets. There are 260 people currently in that rotating door in Kamloops.
Housing, sometimes with supports, rather than more and more shelter beds is what is needed.
Going forward, City Council will be tasked with many things. One of the most important things it can do is provide clear direction to City staff on how it wants to help create more housing in Kamloops.
Second, it can work with others including BC Housing, ASKWellness, A Way Home Kamloops, and Canadian Home Builders Association to find solutions for building housing. As Mazzotta spoke of, collaboration with others is required.
It’s still a long winter ahead. Let’s hope all the folks on the streets have a place to get out of the cold. And that the current council can support those doing the heavy lifting to make it happen.
Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.