Kamloops volunteers cleaning needles, batteries from homeless camps before river rises | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops volunteers cleaning needles, batteries from homeless camps before river rises

Two volunteers picking up garbage at an abandoned camp below West Victoria Street.
May 05, 2021 - 1:04 PM

An assorted group of Kamloops citizens have formed a collective to clean up the riverbanks.

At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 'Save Our Shores' met at Riverside Park to pick up garbage and disarrayed greenspace, left behind by abandoned encampments.

It was their second trip to clean garbage from abandoned camps. The first was along Shubert Drive last week.

Dave Tucker had seen many people suggesting that someone should go and clean up the garbage, so Tucker took it upon himself to organize a group and times to venture out.

READ MORE: Formerly homeless youth in Kamloops calls out 'short-term' solutions

Dave Tucker another needle and a knife to the sharps collection bin.
Dave Tucker another needle and a knife to the sharps collection bin.

Tucker is an RCMP officer in Kamloops now, but he was once homeless as a teen in Kelowna. It's hard to say where he would be now otherwise, but he said he wouldn't be where he is now without organizations like the Boys and Girls Club.

"I just wanted to make a positive impact," he said. "(Homelessness) is really complicated, but right now on the river, there's a lot of (garbage) just beneath the surface of the beach."

Simply look along the riverbanks, and where there's thick brush, there's likely an abandoned camp site, makeshift fire pits, old batteries and needles. 

As a police officer, he said it wasn't up to him what solutions the City of Kamloops should take to control encampments, but he simply wants to see public spaces cleaned up for everyone to enjoy.

READ MORE: Archaeology at renowned Kamloops park shows its long history and cultural importance

Ten people joined the 'Save Our Shores' community clean up on Wednesday. Group members are each liable for their own safety, Tucker said, and they have no official relationship with the City.

However, community service officers arrive when the group cleans and have offered to take garbage away once it's bagged.

Luz Meyer is another group member. As she cleaned piled branches that were, presumably, used as shelter by former campers, Meyer confessed she joined the group because she's concerned about the local ecology.

"It's not political. If there's rules for these camps, I wish there was more follow-through from the City," she said. "But I simply want to avoid garbage getting in these two beautiful rivers."

She's a mountain biker, and she likens conversations on public access for these parks between homeless encampments and the rest of the general public to multi-use trails she bikes on. It's common to have disputes between bikers, hikers or off-road enthusiasts over who has the right to access.

READ MORE: People in riverside encampments 'encouraged' to use Kamloops shelters as river rises

Meyer says the difference, though, is that hikers and bikers are privileged to have that access to recreation in the first place, compared to people who have little to nothing that live on the riverbanks.

To these concerned residents, the City’s relaxed rules to allow encampments on the riverbanks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, has allowed garbage from former residents to simply grow too much.

While the City has implemented increased security in business districts, fewer camp patrols has led to tents, needles and a variety of garbage being left behind in green space along the Thompson Rivers.

As the rivers rise with spring run off, community service officers are working to encourage people who camp in the city’s green space to use the shelter services in place downtown.

The temporary shelters at the Memorial Arena and Kamloops Curling Club were initially opened for expanded winter shelter, but have since had their deadlines extended through the summer.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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