Approximately 10 business owners met at Top Crop to express their frustrations with homelessness and the increase in crime in Cranbrook to local politicians.
Mayor Lee Pratt, MP Rob Morrison and MLA Tom Shypitka were in attendance and all agreed there’s a problem that needs fixing.
Pratt was quick to point the blame to the provincial government, especially attorney general David Eby.
“David Eby is the master in charge, he’s the attorney general and is also in charge of BC Housing. What he’s done is taken the problem from the east end of Vancouver and spread it throughout the province,” added Pratt.
He said the city was not consulted when a temporary shelter was put in place.
“When BC Housing came to Cranbrook they talked to a person about putting up a temporary homeless shelter, they never once talked to me or anybody at the city,” added Pratt.
“Then it came up out of the blue for rezoning and it got rezoned and we’re off to the races.”
He said the city has done all it can.
“We have not turned a blind eye to this, we’ve done everything we can. We talk to our bylaw officers and they say they can’t do anything,” Pratt said.
“When this first started we couldn’t even take a camp down unless we could prove we had somewhere to put those people.”
Shypitka agreed that the provincial government had dropped the ball, but pointed out that all levels of government can pitch in to help.
“This is a multi-layered problem, it’s not only mental health and addictions, it’s housing and affordability. A lot of these people who are victimized or marginalized are sons and daughters and moms and dads, but there’s a problem obviously and it’s escalated in the last year or two,” said Shypitka.
“I’m not here to point fingers. There are a lot of things the city can do, a lot of things the province can do and a lot of things the federal government can do.”
He believes the Ministry for Mental Health and Addictions is a big facade.
“Mental health and addictions was one of their cornerstone promises made to British Columbians,” added Shypitka.
“They tooted really loudly that they were proud of this ministry, but this ministry’s budget has been cut. Its $6 million dollar budget is about one-third of the Premier’s budget. It’s just a facade.”
Shypitka said there need to be more programs in place in and around the community including a new detox centre.
“This pack them and stack them mentality where they warehouse people may look good on the outside, but there’s no support, there’s nothing there for them to lean on,” he added.
“We’re holding these people perpetually in a bad place.”
Morrison agreed that long-term solutions need to be established and the federal government needs to take initiative.
“The federal government needs to step in and be responsible for long-term solutions. Being pushed around and in and out of a jail and back onto the street again isn’t the answer. It takes rehab and lots of rehab,” said Morrison.
He said he will be bringing the issue up to the federal government himself.
“As a government, it’s easy to talk, but where’s the action? That’s why I’m here to do some action.
“I will take responsibility federally and start pushing that stick forward and getting some real solutions for the opioid crisis and not just talking about it.”
This is just the beginning of our coverage. Tomorrow you’ll hear from ANKORS and how this issue has affected local business owners.