City of Campbell River workers start to remove the glass at Spirit Square. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

City of Campbell River workers start to remove the glass at Spirit Square. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

What if care for the least fortunate among us was the main priority?

Social Services bylaw scrapped after two years of work

Over the past few years, one of the major areas of focus for the people of Campbell River has been the downtown core.

City council has made it a major priority over the past two years, with their social services bylaw that would refine definitions of certain social services as well as only allow them to be located in certain areas. The bylaw was scrapped as it was going to third reading, after a public hearing showed how the public felt about it.

Turns out people didn’t like it all that much.

The thing is, this council spent half of its term working on this issue, and all of that work got thrown out. The bylaw as it was presented essentially moved the “problem” from one part of town to another town. Remembering that the “problem” is just a group of people that some have decided that they don’t like. Maybe treating these people like people would do a lot more good than removing shelter and making their lives even more miserable. The idea behind this bylaw came from the city’s downtown safety committee, which was made up of local business owners in the downtown area.

“The whole origin of this came from when we had the downtown safety committee debating whether there should be a dispersal of these services or concentration of these services. And the recommendation that they came to council with was that we go forward with a zoning bylaw to prescribe location and spacing of social services in the downtown area,” Councillor Claire Moglove said in July.

Not everyone affected by the proposed bylaw were really part of the discussion.

I can see how small business owners in the downtown core would be affected by unhoused people who frequent that area. The thing is, there are other people who could have been on that committee, people who actually have experience either working with people who are unhoused, or have experience being unhoused themselves.

A few weeks ago, Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness coordinator Stefanie Hendrickson spoke to council, saying that the way forward was through collaboration, not division. I agree. We need to realize that all the people who live in our community, regardless of whether they are fortunate enough to live indoors or not, deserve dignity, and not to be shuffled off somewhere else because a few of the most privileged decided they didn’t like to look at them. We need a council who recognizes this, and works with people who know this subject best, not just those who are disgruntled by it.

What if we elected people who made decisions that would benefit all of us? What if care for the least fortunate among us was the main priority, rather than whoever pays the most taxes? What if the city were run like a community, and not a business?

If I spent two years working on a project, only to have it not meet expectations and get tossed out, I’m sure I’d have to explain a thing or two to my boss.

RELATED: City scraps social services bylaw; seeks a new approach to unruly behaviour downtown

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