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COUNCIL: Mayoral candidates discuss solutions to homelessness downtown and associated inappropriate behaviour

Candidates provide their views on the issues

The candidates for mayor were all asked three questions on key issues. Question No. 1 is:

1. What should the city do to deal with people living on the streets in downtown Campbell River and the associated inappropriate behaviour?

l Michael Calhoun…

Having had the opportunity to look at and investigate this problem in detail in major cities of B.C., Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick, I seen some innovative approaches and a system that is broke on the handing of this. Crime, drugs and unruly civil behavior are the result of a lack of services for mential illness

Work and life skills and meaningful employment and rehab services add to this. The lack of self esteem and isolation from the community give the homeless more input on planning and control of funding and self policing of some bad apples that reflect on all, will give them more pride and self determination.

Poorly trained security not ever being in this field who are afraid of them and and have no communication skills and gather no trust or cooperation. Lack of knowledge of individuals and their situations, non-effective support workers who truly get involved and offer support in times of stress and death. A proper place away from the downtown core to give them a safe place to go that is close enough to the core for the other services and eventually all services under one roof. A shop to construct carts for their possessions – not shopping carts – and secure storage of items so they do not have to travel all day with them. Direct money support now trickle down funding.

Also reaching out to all First Nation bands on the Island to play a more active role for their people that have ended up on the streets of our community. Having some task such as street sweeping and gardening being paid and done by street people rather than city. Give them money and pride in this.

All these politicians and directors sit in their offices never or seldom getting hands-on experience leads to failure before they start. As mayor, you will see me talking, dining and communicating to all involved even camping out (who wants to join me) if necessary, and solve this issue in detailed manner. Having already reached out to security and other services. One-on-one discussions with the homeless has raised my insight to this important matter. A change in attitude and public involvement as lead to racism of a different sort.

l Charlie Cornfield…

Most people are reacting out of fear, concern and frustration, they feel the situation is out of control. They want to know the city is dealing with this crisis.

These are our people, our residents, living on our streets. We need to deal with understanding and compassion. There is no easy quick fix. There are those that are poor, those with mental health issues, those with alcohol and addiction issues, and a criminal element that preys on the others and attacks business and residents. Each group requires a different approach. There are some short term actions that can be used to ease the situation and there are longer term solutions that we need to start on now.

In the short term, the RCMP need to deal with the criminal element and violent behaviour. This is urgent because failure to deal with it leads to vigilante actions and the crisis escalates.

The less serious but inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour needs to stop. There must be a consequence for their actions. Spending the night in jail is compassionate. They are safe, and warm even if for a short time.

Mayor and Council need to calm the situation, take control, communicate better, and bring all the community together, to work with senior governments, First Nations and organizations, the street people, business and the general public on a more permanent solution.

This is a very complex issue and almost every community in the province is impacted by this situation and are searching for solutions.

There are federal and provincial laws that need to be changed. This takes time.

We lack the number of shelters and treatment facilities needed to provide safety and security for everyone. We have approached the province and are working on having proper facilities provided.

We are not alone in this issue. We can learn from others such as Duncan and Port Alberni with their tiny homes project. We were successful in having a resolution passed at the local government convention asking the provincial and federal governments to pay for security and cleanup.

There is much to be done and we all have to work together to enable long term solutions.

We need to start now, focus on solutions and start making progress even if it means starting with little steps. Shelter First!

l Kermit Dahl…

Those are two separate problems. The homelessness is one problem, and the associated inappropriate behavior would be a different problem. So for the lack of housing, we need to develop housing that lower income earners can afford. We need to develop the addictions and mental health facility. These are complicated questions to try to answer over the phone.

We’re, we’ve been we’ve already been talking with the Wei Wai Kum and the We Wai Kai First Nation, about after the election getting together and figuring out what we can do together to develop lower income housing. 80% of the people downtown are First Nations. Right? So this isn’t a problem that the city is going to be able to deal with on their own. It’s gonna need a partnership with First Nations, the city, BC housing,

the Ministry for addictions. We’re gonna have to work together to figure this out.

And then the inappropriate behavior, that’s lawlessness. And that should be dealt with by the RCMP. We pay them to do that job. I was talking to someone yesterday down Island. And she owned a small business and I asked her about the effects of the same thing happening towards Victoria. And she, she said, the homelessness is one problem. But it’s the lawless people that hide within the community that really cause the problems. And I think that’s an accurate statement. It’s not the homeless people that are necessarily causing us the grief. It’s the people that have they’re breaking the law, the thieves that are hiding within the homeless population.

It’s unfortunate that the homeless people get painted with the same brush because it’s not what really should be happening.

l Saron Gebreselassi…

My new electric bicycle with three locks was stolen at the library. A local realtor had her business ransacked and her laptops destroyed. Another local business owner had his passport, wallet, and identification stolen from his office. Crime is rampant downtown. As a Trial Lawyer and an Officer of the Court, I know how to bring about law and order. The Honorable Court can mandate treatment, rehabilitation, monitoring, and other types of intervention. Camera surveillance needs to be installed. Recovery services need to move out of downtown. Crisis lines need to be opened up. The whole community, including churches, workers, unions, and businesses, needs to come together now to convene regular meetings to stabilize the downtown core and contain the damage. The city needs to attract those in the philanthropy and addiction sectors to visit.

l Larry Samson…

Our citizens are tired, frustrated and angry at the inaction of the province and are insisting the city do something. The mental health and addiction support for the provincial complex care facility is not even in the planning or approval stages for Campbell River. Cities throughout the province are not waiting any longer and are taking steps to find solutions.

If I am elected as your Mayor and with the support of the newly elected Council. The city will implement the Community Social Safety Initiatives Action Plan. This action plan modeled after the program in Maple Ridge and now being adopted or looked at by 15 other communities, including Nanaimo and Saanich here on the Island.

There are three main components to this plan, the first action will be the hiring of Community Safety Officers. These officers are uniformed and are trained to work with compassion and understanding of people who have complex problems, including mental health and substance misuse. The Community Safety Officers (CSO) along with other safety providers will start work at 6 a.m. to ensure local businesses and their customers arrive to work in a safe environment. The CSO will have at their request a cleanup team to quickly remove garbage or other hazards. The CSO’s will work with existing service providers in our community to assist our most vulnerable residents with complex problems. They will ensure our most vulnerable residents are treated with respect and ensure they get the service they require whether it be referral to housing, medical, social services or other necessities. The Community Safety Officers will act as key component in public safety that do not require a police response. The Maple Ridge program has shown a 97 per cent file closure rate with 48 hrs; this frees up our RCMP to focus on other crimes in our city.

The second part will be to look at the locations of our services including the community kitchen and provide a central location or as referred to in Maple Ridge as “the Hub” for those residents with complex care needs. You cannot simply relocate our homelessness from location to location there must be a “Hub” to allow our most vulnerable residents to get the services they require. I will ask for business owners/stakeholders from the Campbellton, Downtown, Pier Street and Willow Point to sit on a committee of 5-7 people to look at locations for “the HUB”. They will also be ask for the community kitchen to be part of this HUB. This committee will be driven by the stakeholders and not staff or Council.

The third part will be to meet with BC Housing and do a needs assessment for seniors, families and individuals who do not have complex problems, other than they simply cannot afford a home or rent in our community. This is crucial for both BC Housing and the City of Campbell River be on the same page to address our housing needs.