As street issues and crime continues to rise across the province, members of the Business Improvement Areas of B.C. are calling for immediate action from all levels of government to help curb the problem.
“It’s certainly impacting all four corners of our province as evidenced in communities in our northern portion, the Interior, and on our Island as well,” said president of the BIABC, Teri Smith.
“It’s really become the number one issue that we’re hearing from our BIA colleagues across the province.”
One city where crime has become a real challenge is Kelowna. It was recently ranked number one in Canada when it comes to crime rate.
“The increase in demand for the Downtown Kelowna Association’s On Street services continue to grow at an alarming rate,” said Downtown Kelowna Associations executive director, Mark Burley.
“Our Downtown On-Call is experiencing unprecedented call volume from our member businesses and visitors to Downtown Kelowna to deal with individuals with drug and mental health issues.”
President of the Business Improvement areas of B.C. says it’s time for governments to step up and take action against what she calls “untenable street issues and crime” across the province.
“What we want to see is all levels of government from municipal to our federal level coming together and working cooperatively to address these critical issues that were facing,” expressed Smith.
“No more talking, no more deflecting, let’s just get to work and figure this out.”
At the municipal level, BIABC is challenging all mayoral and council candidates in the October civic elections to support core funding that will alleviate main street issues through increased policing resources, street lighting, sanitation, and anti-graffiti programs, as well as stronger bylaw enforcement.
They are also recommending a plan for the province to support those experiencing mental health, addictions and/or homelessness, actions to address the issue of prolific offenders, an examination of alternative justice options, increased police resources and assistance programs for victims of commercial crime.
At the federal level, BIABC is pushing for the establishment of an all-party committee on downtowns and main streets.
“We recognize there is a vulnerable population that suffers from addiction, mental health and homelessness in this province — and there is no disputing the need for our elected leaders to address those issues as a matter of urgency,” explains Smith.
Kelowna city council candidate Daniel Joseph held a rally at city hall Monday afternoon with about 50 residents from Kelowna’s tent city, to try and raise awareness about homelessness and the stigma that comes with it. Joseph says that while he agrees there is a serious crime issue in BC, he believes it’s important to address crime and homelessness separately.
“Not everybody who’s living on the street is suffering from mental illness or drug abuse,” said Kelowna city council candidate Daniel Joseph.
“A lot of these people we’re just priced out of their homes and now they’re being priced out of their community, and that’s why we need to curb this issue now, because it’s only going to get worse.”
Joseph says he’s passionate about solving the city’s homelessness issue because it’s something he’s gone through himself.
“I’ve experienced homelessness, I’ve slept in my car, and I’ve lost two of my best friends when I was 19 to drug abuse so I’ve got a unique experience with this,” described Joseph.
“That’s really why I’m trying to lead the charge.”
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran recently announced new complex care housing that’s been approved for Kelowna.
“Complex care housing is a groundbreaking approach for people with overlapping severe mental health and substance use challenges, who often have acquired brain injury,” said B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcomson.
According to a release from the City of Kelowna, multiple sites in the community will deliver complex care for up to 20 citizens.