Day lodge, added representation to be considered by Kamloops council to tackle city's social issues

City to seek social solutions?

A notice of motion presented by a trio of Kamloops councillors Tuesday is seeking support for several ambitious initiatives to tackle the city's social issues, including a look at the feasibility of a day lodge and adding neighbourhood-level representation to municipal safety decision-making.

Near the end of Tuesday's regular meeting, councillors Dale Bass, Kathy Sinclair and Sadie Hunter each read aloud a portion of the joint notice of motion, which is scheduled to be discussed by council at their next meeting on Feb. 9.

Coun. Bass said they put together the motion as a group effort, as they have been hearing complaints from businesses and residents about ongoing problems throughout the city.

“We haven’t done much to tell people that we’re just as frustrated as you guys are,” Bass told Castanet Kamloops.

Bass said they wanted to put forward some ideas that are “a little outside the box” in the hopes that good discussion and meaningful action will result.

Coun. Sinclair said they have noticed street issues getting worse, especially since the pandemic began.

“Not only are businesses suffering from increased vandalism, graffiti, that sort of thing, the people who are living on the streets are suffering more, too,” Sinclair said.

“The idea behind this motion is that we want to get [to the] root of the issues.”

Several suggestions were put forward in the notice of motion.

If passed by council, the motion would ask the Union of B.C. Municipalities to seek provincial funding for the issue.

“Because addiction and mental health is at a crisis point right now, we really need some better funding and better solutions to deal with it on the street level,” Sinclair said.

At a local level, city staff would be asked to determine a way to study the underlying causes of ongoing social issues, also identifying reasons why some marginalized people don’t access existing services.

Sinclair said while B.C. Housing's efforts have generally “been great” for Kamloops, helping to provide many with permanent housing, the agency's work doesn’t work for everybody.

“There is continuously about 30 people who are very hard to help, or who just choose not to use those services that we have available to them," Sinclair told Castanet Kamloops.

"And so part of the motion speaks to how they’re not using those services, and how can we further refine them so they will.”

City departments would also be asked to report on their contributions toward tackling social issues in Kamloops.

Bass said city staff are working hard to address the issues, but sometimes councillors aren’t aware of what work is occurring. She said a “body of information” would be helpful to inform council of what’s being done.

The motion also suggests expanding safety engagement groups to ensure other city neighbourhoods experiencing crime or safety issues, from Dallas to Brocklehurst, have representation.

Staff would also be asked to study the feasibility of building a day lodge in a core area, increasing the amount of storage spaces like those existing on West Victoria Street, and expanding the hours of access to storage.

Coun. Hunter said she has asked why some individuals are not accessing shelter beds available at night, and feedback indicated it may be due to storage lockers, which are mostly day use.

“Maybe if they had somewhere to store their belongings, that might help them feel more comfortable accessing resources,” she said.

According to Hunter, council has supported past initiatives like putting in showers and lockers, hiring security and changing the mandate of city bylaw officers to address community safety. The new motion, she said, was born out of a desire to find more innovative solutions.

“We're all kind of feeling at this kind of, at a loss as to what to do to be effective and addressing some of the problems that are arising around those vulnerable populations in our city,” Hunter said.

“Maybe [the motion] will inject something different into the conversation as we push this forward,” she said.

“It’s not just a Kamloops problem, but maybe we need to look at a Kamloops solution.”

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