Businesses still want fix
Darren Handschuh - Feb 11 - Biz Releases

Photo: Darren Handschuh

There are mixed feelings about the effectiveness of a meeting on how to address the problem of homelessness in the downtown core.

Some think the meeting earlier this week that included social agencies, businesses and city officials was a good start, while others felt it was just a rehash of what the Activate Safety Task Force had already learned last year.

One business owner, who asked her name not be used, said she has had staff threatened, she has to clean up needles and human waste on a regular basis and fears for her safety and the safety of her staff.

She said action is needed on addressing the situation, not more meetings.

“I am not against the homeless. The homeless need help. It is the lawlessness that has to be addressed,” she said.

Larry Fisher, of Fisher’s Hardware, said the meeting was pointless and nothing was said that hasn’t already been covered.

The longtime downtown business owner said he has had to deal with a range of problems from shoplifting to needles to human waste on his property.

Fishers is next to a pair of shelters and he said his property is often used as a pathway for shelter clients and his store constantly the target of shoplifters.

He has also lost customers because of the situation.

Fisher said the problems presented at the meeting are problems that have been presented many times in the past and he believes it is now up to the city, police and bylaw to take action.

“It’s a tough issue, but I think the very first step needs to happen at city hall. They have the power, I’m only a citizen and a business person, I’m the victim here,” said Fisher. “They have the connection with the RCMP and bylaw, people in uniform. If they are going to have any clout or authority, it has to be people in uniform.”

Fisher said when a business owner or staff member confronts a member of the street community, “your problems just increase later with increased vandalism and that sort of thing.”

Fisher said city hall must take a more proactive approach to the problem, such as changing the rules to allow bylaw officers go onto private property.

He does not feel there is a need for more meetings because the problem has already been identified.

Dodds Auction sits between the Upper Room Mission and the shelters, but Bob Woodman said his business has had few problems with the homeless community.

Woodman said the biggest problem right now is the communication between the non-profits and the business owners.

He would like to have more information on how the shelters operate: what rules are in place, what type of enforcement is in place.

Woodman said more information may foster a better understanding between businesses and the homeless.

“I think some good things are going to come out of it,” said Woodman. “Surprisingly, we are right in the thick of it and we have very little problems. I have guys occasionally sleeping on our doorstep, but generally you come in the morning, you are nice to them and they are pretty respectful.

“We always try to treat them like I would anybody else. If you are friendly with them, they are friendly back. We see people walking down the street yelling and screaming and doing crazy stuff, but generally these people aren’t bad people. They are just down on their luck people who have made some wrong choices in their life.”

Woodman said the meeting was “a great first step” in dealing with the downtown issues.


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