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Community frustrated over new day space on Kamloops North Shore

A homeless encampment at Arthur Hatton Elementary School in Kamloops. The City of Kamloops is opening two day spaces for the homeless as part of a plan to direct homeless people to resources and overnight shelters.
Image Credit: Shannon Ainslie
July 30, 2021 - 6:00 AM

The proposed opening of a day space for individuals experiencing homelessness is causing fear and frustration for some Kamloops residents living on the North Shore, but according to city representatives, there is no cause for concern.

Community concerns were aired in an outdoor meeting with City representatives on July, 27 at McDonald Park.

Resident Sarah Johnstone said the fact the neighbourhood was not consulted by the City in the planning for the temporary day space increased anxiety among residents who are already overwhelmed by criminal activity and drug use in the area.

“We got an invite to the event by the city at the same time we got the press release about the new day space,” she said. “It would have been nice for our neighbourhood to be consulted beforehand. This new site backs onto two residential streets and is two blocks away from McDonald Park. The Loop was not run well from the community perspective which has contributed to our hesitation."

Johnstone said approximately 25 McDonald Park community residents attended the meeting.

Also in attendance was Carmin Mazzotta, City of Kamloops social, housing and community development manager, who said he was pleased to see the turnout as it shows the residents really care about the issues in their neighbourhood.

“Residents had the opportunity to have a conversation,” he said. “We understand their concerns and were happy to be able to address them. This is a unique day space in that four different agencies are running it together and it will be very closely managed.”

The day space, called Envision, will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily with a proposed opening date of Aug. 1. Johnstone said residents’ biggest concern is what will happen in their neighbourhood at night.

“I understand the agencies are trying to move the homeless toward resources and shelters at night. One of our biggest concerns as residents is what happens to our neighbourhood at night if someone refuses a shelter. They are still formulating some plans and ideas around that.”

Mazzotta confirmed the decision for a homeless to accept transport to a shelter at night is voluntary.

“Each evening upon closure, homeless folks will be transported to shelters downtown,” he explained. “Some may choose not to go but the goal of the day space is to start making a connection with those are not housed. Upon closure we do have community officers on until ten o’clock and there is security on the North Shore who will loop through the area at night so issues do not affect residents.”

According to an online survey Johnstone sent to community association members, the biggest community concerns are having garbage and drug paraphernalia in the streets. The biggest demand from the group is for zero open drug use.

“Envision day space will have service providers onsite and the site will be cleaned upon closure every night,” Mazzotta said. “There are non-profits in town who are working to clean up needles and garbage.  This is not a thing where folks will be coming in with their own drug supply and actively use on the site. If someone comes in under the influence, support workers on site will manage the situation appropriately.”

Mazzotta said the agencies are taking a data driven approach, with continuous monitoring and delivering of data as it is collected.

Envision is being run by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Kamloops, ASK Wellness Society, the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society and Interior Community Services.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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