Cranbrook officials said the city is making progress on helping unhoused and vulnerable residents, but there’s still work to be done.
Marcel Germer, Cranbrook’s social development coordinator said there has been an increase in homelessness in the community since 2022.
“The contributing factors to homelessness are many, like the housing crisis, mental health substance abuse, the rental market in general,” said Germer. “I think there’s a lot of contributing factors, but the outcome is that we’re seeing this increase in populations of unhoused people.”
Germer said Cranbrook’s approach has been reactionary rather than proactive until recently.
“The City took a great step this year when they organized regular cleaning and monitoring of all the encampments. I think that has had a huge impact,” said Germer.
Bylaw officers visit five days a week and Germer joins in at least three days a week.
“We go just to check in on people, keep things clean, maintain order, build relationships and check on their safety and wellbeing,” said Germer. “We’re there in real-time when people are saying if they need something or if there’s a criminal element going on. Then we’re able to contact the right people right away.”
“We’ve seen that it has worked to at least maintain and decrease the number of people living in encampments versus people that may have been living there if they were just left unmonitored,” explained Germer.
While there is still plenty of work to be done to further support Cranbrook’s vulnerable residents, progress has been positive.
“We’ve been able to maintain order and cleanliness in the encampments. The relationship building has let the people who are housed talk to us about what help or services they need,” explained Germer. “There are some people who are in dire need of immediate services, and through interactions with other agencies in the community, we were able to get people into the streams they need to be in.”
The team has also cleaned up abandoned camps and garbage left behind.
“All in all, this hasn’t solved the problem, it’s something we’re still working on, but it has helped maintain or limit it from growing,” said Germer.
Germer said it’s important for the city to take a leadership role in tackling local issues.
“We need to show that every citizen of Cranbrook is important. While there are lots of issues we’re trying to resolve, we also need to have compassion for people who are struggling and compassion for businesses who are bearing the brunt of the negative side of homelessness and other crises,” said Germer. “It’s really important for the city to know what the community is feeling and what they’re going through to help respond in any way they can.”