Some business owners on Victoria Street in downtown Kamloops say "it's about time," but they're happy to see city council taking steps to address social issues in the area.
On Tuesday, a special council meeting took place for councillors to discuss two motions brought forward by Coun. Dale Bass and Coun. Bill Sarai.
Each motion had several recommendations aimed at addressing or preventing issues related to addictions, mental health, supportive housing and related safety and security challenges.
Reid Hamer-Jackson, owner of Tru Market Truck and Auto Sales located on West Victoria Street, said he thought the special council meeting was a good step forward.
“I thought it was great,” he said. “It’s a great movement towards helping everybody in the community.”
Part of a motion from Sarai, passed by council, will have staff report back with a budget and funding options for eight-hours-per-day, seven-days-a-week security patrols downtown and along the Tranquille business corridor. The patrols will take place until the city’s bylaw officers — known now as community services officers — can take over the job.
As a result of the meeting, staff will also create a registration program for business security cameras so footage can be accessed easier by police.
Other decisions made by council included directing supportive housing to provide more wrap-around services for their clients, including addictions counselling, nursing staff, and security staff.
Hamer-Jackson said he would like to see more of these services for the street population struggling with mental health and addiction issues, as this would help both them and the businesses who often are at the receiving end of aggressive behaviour.
"I think it's about time that we started to deal with a lot of the issues on the street,” he said.
“We've got some security, but it's still not helping the population that's in the area. You know, they need more nursing, more mental health care, more wraparound services.”
Hamer-Jackson said more security personnel at some supportive housing units might bring a bit more control.
“Anytime they see somebody crossing the street, they're gonna say, ‘Hey, don't go into the Stereo Warehouse and threaten to slit her throat’,” he said, referencing an incident where a neighbouring business owner was threatened by an aggressive individual.
Council was divided on these issues, with concerns being raised around the amount of money hiring additional security staff would cause for some housing providers.
Mayor Ken Christian said the effect of that recommendation may drive away housing providers from the area.
However, in the wake of the council meeting, reactions from downtown and West Victoria Street business owners has been positive.
Carine Spiliotakis, co-owner of Caffe Motivo, said she thinks it’s great council called a special meeting, as it is apparent downtown businesses need support.
She said she will often have male employees open the cafe in the early-morning hours due to concerns around her female staff’s safety when dealing with individuals displaying problematic behaviour.
“I'd like to see security just popping in seeing how we're doing, has anyone come in,” Spiliotakis said. “Because there's times that I've called the police, but then they don't show up until, you know, an hour later, and that person's gone.
“Just people walking around, just making sure that, you know, somebody's not having a fire outside my business would be wonderful.”
Moving forward, both business owners said they hope to see more concrete steps to provide services for people on the street, while also addressing their security concerns.
Spiliotakis said she hopes to see more public washroom facilities available for street-embedded people, especially during the winter months and overnight.
She said she has to turn down people asking to use the bathroom, but it seems inhumane to do so.
“You can't tell them they can use the bathroom, it seems so strange. But it got to the point where they go to the bathroom, then they shoot up in there, and then they tell their friends and it just gets crazy,” she said.
Hamer-Jackson said he believes if the motions from council are implemented, it will help everybody in the community.
“They can tell me to get a bigger gate, or lock my door, but you also need to deal with the issues at hand. I mean, we can't keep pretending it's not happening.”