Hamer-Jackson's motion on outreach workers criticized for lacking depth, substance

RHJ's motion shot down

A motion put forward by Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson that suggested petitioning the province to fund 15 street outreach positions has been defeated, with several councillors expressing concern about its lack of forethought.

While councillors agreed street outreach workers are valuable, several said they couldn’t support Hamer-Jackson’s motion as they thought it lacked depth and substance.

The motion recommended city staff collaborate with non-profits and advocate for the B.C. government to fund more than a dozen local street outreach positions, providing 24/7 coverage on Kamloops streets.

The matter was discussed during Tuesday’s council meeting. Hamer-Jackson said he believed BC Housing wants safety and security around its properties, and felt security guards wouldn't be as effective as outreach workers — who develop relationships with vulnerable people and can connect them with supports.

Coun. Nancy Bepple said she appreciates the willingness to help local agencies, but raised concerns about assumptions that street outreach workers are the biggest need for all agencies.

She said she contacted non-profits, learning some are looking for positions like nurses, wellness advocates and case management workers. Bepple added street outreach workers also need to be able to refer their clients to relevant supports.

“There’s a whole host of different positions the agencies have, so for us to tell them, ‘This is what you need,’ I think is a few steps ahead of where we want to be,” she said.

Byron McCorkell, the city's community and protective services director, told council the city was already working in partnership with non-profits to pair community services officers with outreach workers. He said the teams are providing coverage 16 hours per day, seven days a week, and that the pilot project had seen success.

Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, said Hamer-Jackson’s motion was brought to a recent meeting involving city social agencies for feedback. He said while non-profits at the meeting appreciated support for outreach, they too had concerns.

“Their concerns were that such a motion — so, any of these types of social motions — should be informed by a robust engagement framework … and were disappointed in the lack of collaboration [and] opportunity to provide input,” he said.

Mazzotta said in the middle of the night, many facilities offering supports aren’t open. He noted a sobering centre — which councillors and local groups have been calling on the provincial government to fund — would fill that gap.

According to Mazzotta, representatives attending the meeting said council support behind requests to the province for housing, detox and treatment facilities might have a stronger impact.

Councillors Mike O’Reilly, Katie Neustaeter, Stephen Karpuk and Kelly Hall also raised concerns with what they said was a lack of depth, substance and evidence of research or communication in the motion as presented.

“What we’re debating here right now is a motion that was put together by our mayor that, in my view, lacks structure, lacks depth, is very vague,” Hall said.

“What kind of substance are you looking for?” Hamer-Jackson shot back.

“I’m looking for something a little more than what you presented, sir,” Hall replied.

Hamer-Jackson maintained he had spoken with agencies and “wasn’t going to dig deep into it” before trying to move the discussion to another councillor.

“I guess what I’m saying, your worship, is when you bring a motion forward, if you collaborate with your colleagues and talk with your colleagues about what the motion is, and the depth you're looking at, there’s a lot of good things that come from that,” Hall said.

“And it's something that you might learn one day.”

“Well, I’m kind of new at this. I know you’re a veteran,” Hamer-Jackson replied to Hall.

Both elected officials are serving their first term.

The mayor’s motion was defeated 8-1, with Hamer-Jackson the only vote in support.

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