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Stereotypes, staff shortages among issues raised at Cranbrook town hall meeting

Cranbrook residents were able to voice concerns and pose questions about crime, homelessness and mental health and addictions during a town hall meeting with local care providers yesterday.

The meeting was arranged by the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and held at the College of the Rockies.

In attendance were representatives from ANKORS, Street Angels and the Cranbrook RCMP. Last week a similar meeting was held with local politicians.

All panelists agreed that one of the most important steps the community can take is having compassion.

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“Try to avoid stereotypes. We come to demonize people and class them into a group and treat them with the same opinion. Walk a mile in their shoes,” said Staff Sgt. Barry Graham.

Diane Whitehead, intake aboriginal community liaison services with the Ktunaxa Nation and Street Angels, said it’s important to remember mental health and addictions are something anyone can struggle with.

“I can tell you right now, there’s probably someone in your family that struggles with addiction or mental health and it’s serious and it sucks but that’s just reality,” said Whitehead.

“Mental health and addictions are rapid and it’s serious. Everyone just needs to get on board and start educating themselves and understanding it and to not judge.”

Polly Sutherland, team lead for ANKORS East Kootenay, said she would like the city to set up a public place where vulnerable populations can easily go and get support.

“I believe we should set up a day camp that people can go to that has picnic tables and us out there giving service, that has healthy meals in a city-owned space they can go to in the summer and have shade, hydration and support,” said Sutherland.

She added that she was excited to see that the city agreed to another year of funding for ANKORS’s Needle Ninja program.

The program pays members of the vulnerable population to go around the community picking up needles.

Sutherland said it gives people a sense of purpose and they feel like they are contributing to the community.

Another issue that was raised was the lack of police resources, with Graham saying they are severely understaffed.

“We have to make sure we have enough people to respond to 911 calls first. The bulk of our detachment including our management team is doing frontline general policing just to make sure when you call 911 someone is coming,” said Graham.

“To put it in hockey terms, it’s like we’re killing a penalty all the time and we’re never getting out of our own zone and it doesn’t do much for the big picture.”

He said there is some hope on the horizon as some new staff will be joining the detachment in the coming months and they hope to have some officers returning to duty.

He also said they will be filling the empty mental health liaison position, but are still looking for the best candidate.

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