With many business owners expressing their frustration with homelessness and crime, ANKORS is calling for support and understanding for Cranbrook’s vulnerable population.
ANKORS stands for AIDS Network Outreach and Support Society and they have the goal of helping those struggling with drug poisoning and the community’s vulnerable population.
On Wednesday, around 10 local business owners met to express their frustration to local politicians.
Shannon Fisher, the owner of Top Crop, said her business is nothing like it used to be.
“We are getting beat up. We’ve spent thousands of dollars on cameras and razor wire. We’re a garden centre that sells flowers and we now look like a penitentiary.”
She said theft has been a common occurrence for her and her staff.
“It got to the point this past year, it was so bad for us that we were literally having alarms nightly or every second night. For at least six weeks we would have to meet the police here at two in the morning,” added Fisher.
“They burnt all of our signs because it was getting cold, so they could have fires, They also burnt all of the furniture we were trying to sell. They took all of our staff coats and they took our coffee machine.”
Polly Sutherland, team lead and harm reduction coordinator at ANKORS, is glad businesses are calling for change because she hopes something can finally be done.
“I’m excited that the businesses are saying we’ve had enough because frankly, the people working with vulnerable populations have had enough too. We want to see more for the people here.”
She added that they share a common goal for the community.
“We all actually have the same goal. My goal is to help the vulnerable population and to reach out and try to get them to access service, help them when they’re living rough and to help them be well mentally and physically,” said Sutherland.
“The people that are in businesses have the same goal. They don’t want crime and they don’t want damage happening at their business, but they see the concern for the vulnerable population because there’s nowhere for them to go.”
Helen Barron, executive director of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce, said an alarming number of businesses are considering closing shop and going somewhere else.
“It’s getting worse and worse and I don’t understand how businesses can continue to bear this on top of everything else that COVID has brought,” added Barron.
“It’s getting to the point where I’ve heard multiple businesses say that at some point we’re going to have to look at closing our business and that’s terrifying. Businesses are looking at leaving the community, we have to do something.”
Sutherland agreed that crime has been on the rise, but to truly help the vulnerable population more community supports need to be in place.
“There are a lot of great services and ANKORS is one of them, but there’s not a treatment centre and there’s not a detox,” added Sutherland.
“I feel for the business owners because they’ve already been impacted by COVID and now to have to worry about theft. It’s something that’s growing in Cranbrook. I’ve been here a long time, we’ve always had theft here, but not on the level that we’re seeing.”
For a solution to take place, Sutherland said the community needs to work together and part of that is understanding what the vulnerable population is also going through.
“People out there are saying they can control it, it’s their choice and it’s just so not true. It really doesn’t help the case. I think that when you put the blame on the most vulnerable, you’re not looking at the issue as it sits in Cranbrook,” added Sutherland.
“Take a moment to actually get to know these people. Find out their story, sometimes they’re open to talking about their story and if you have an issue come and see us and let’s put our heads together and work through that.”
She encourages people to check out their Cranbrook Community Action Team.
The team meets once a month to discuss issues people are having and to try to find solutions.
“This group meets to talk about exactly these issues. We want to help and we want to get together with businesses and local people to look at creative solutions that promote wellness,” added Sutherland.
“These people are community members. Maybe they’re not the community member you see them as, but they are, they live here. Many have been here for many, many years. We need to spread love and not hate in the community.”
Those wanting to learn more about the Cranbrook Community Action Team can email Sutherland at [email protected]