The Spirit Square roof removal: planning for a people and business friendly downtown: letter

LETTERS

I am sorry the Campbell River Council approved the Campbell Downtown Safety Committee proposal to have the Spirit Square glass roof removed, all in the hope of preventing homeless people from congregating at that location.

I do not know if the proposal to have the use of shopping carts prohibited downtown was also approved by council. Though I am sympathetic to the struggles the downtown businesses have with safety and cleanliness, I object to these two proposals.

I work downtown 9-5, Monday to Friday and park at the Tyee Plaza. I regularly see the people who live outside, First Nations and Caucasian, men and women, of all ages congregated at Spirit Square. I like seeing them there. Often they are laughing, despite their hard lives, and enjoying themselves. If I wave and say “Hello!” I am invariably greeted back with a friendly reply. I have never felt threatened by the presence of street people in my 30 years of frequenting Shoppers Row, Ostler Park or Nunn’s Creek Park. I mostly find the homeless courteous and grateful for any kindness or acknowledgment I extend.

Recently I saw a Native man of about 50 years old sitting on the ground at Shopper’s Row with an empty McDonald’s coffee cup on the ground in front of him for collecting donations. I asked him his name and where he was staying. He told me he had just come out of the hospital after having surgery and although he lived in Kyuquot, he could not go home because he had nowhere there to quarantine for COVID. He didn’t have a place to stay, he didn’t have a car and he did not know anyone in town but he said he believed in God.

A few days ago I was returning empties to the Return-it Depot in Campbellton. After getting the money for my cans I spotted a man in the parking lot with his bicycle and shopping cart loaded with garbage bags of empties. I went over and introduced myself and asked his name and if I could give him the money I had just collected for my cans. He hesitated but then he accepted and thanked me graciously. He told me he was getting by and had recently found a place to live. I did not inquire further about his new housing.

April 5th, Easter Monday, my son took off for the Lower Mainland and is currently staying outside in Grandview Park in Vancouver. Though he lives with me, he sets out periodically. My son is 27 years old, he has schizophrenia and he is unable to work. The winter of COVID has been lonely and isolating for him. He left to go be with people that are more like him.

Many people do not fit in our world in a conventional way; in a working, “productive,” tax-paying way and are on the street looking for a community and to connect with other people. These people that we see as marginal are on the street for many reasons and because of many circumstances, they all have families and they could be or maybe are your family members.

I would prefer to see policies that do not seek to hide or push away people living outside, but rather see infrastructures that make the experience better for all people who frequent downtown Campbell River including visitors, residents and the homeless. Infrastructure like more garbage cans, public toilets, benches and shade trees, places to rest and pause and appreciate our beautiful location on the waterfront.

I would like our City Hall to support the Campbell Downtown Safety Committee in their work to keep the downtown core a people and business friendly environment that includes the homeless as our brothers and sisters.

Anita Brochocka

Quadra Island

Campbell RiverHomelessness