A proposed storage solution program for Campbell Riverites living outdoors is not meant to encourage the use of stolen shopping carts, rather provide safe and dry storage of people’s belongings, according to the proponents of the project.
“The storage lockers would provide dry storage of personal goods whether that be a backpack, wagon… so that individuals could access services, medical appointments,” said SRD strategic initiatives manager Renée Laboucane.
As part of a $1 million grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities to help with community infrastructure and programming for people experiencing homelessness, the SRD and the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness are asking the community for help in securing a location for a storage option. The goal is to help people who are unhoused not have to worry about their belongings getting damaged while they are accessing services and medical appointments.
However, community members voiced their concerns on social media that the project would end up being essentially a way to store stolen shopping carts and would not be a solution to crime in the downtown core.
“The shopping cart situation is definitely challenging and it is on the Coalition’s radar to look at shopping cart alternatives,” said Stefanie Hendrickson, coordinator for CRDCEH. “As for the belongings in the shopping carts: while there are unhoused people who have stolen goods – just like there are housed people who have stolen goods – many people who are unhoused have been given supplies by social service organizations (tents, sleeping bags, hygiene supplies) and so those supplies belong to them.”
Hendrickson also said that this was not a new idea, and that other communities in B.C. have successfully implemented this kind of program. In 2017, a six-locker storage area was opened in Vernon that included two lockers that could fit carts. The funding for that program was provided by the Community Foundation of North Okanagan, and the local Home Depot donated two of the units, Black Press reported at the time. On-site storage was also built at Our Place in Victoria in 2018, which allows 100 people to keep their possessions safe and dry.
If the Coalition and SRD are unable to find a location for this project, Hendrickson said that the funds could be redirected into another program covered by the grant.
The Mirror reached out to the Downtown Business Association, who have not commented at this time.