Police walk along Wallace Street across Memorial Park last Friday. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Street issues task force to flesh out pilot program for next meeting

The initial meeting saw various groups participating.

The task force to combat street issues such as panhandling and public intoxication met on the afternoon of Aug. 16.

The initial meeting saw various groups participating including First Nations, District of Hope council and caregiver groups.

“We got everyone around the table and started talking about how we can work together better,” said mayor Wilfried Vicktor. “There’s a lot of good work taking place already, so this was not about throwing people under the bus because it’s a very difficult problem to deal with.”

He added that the task force will meet in a week to flesh out a request for a pilot project in Hope.

“There was some talk about necessity for additional help for the chronically homeless and those with mental health challenges,” said Vicktor. “The HOPE Project that was in place last year, the funding was discontinued for that and so there’s a thought that we would pursue funding for a model of service delivery.

“Since we’re a smaller community and since we have problems but they’re smaller than Chilliwack or Abbotsford that we could devise a special model of service delivery and the government could try it out here and see if it works here and then if it works well then they can use it in other communities as well.”

Vicktor mentioned that at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) meeting in September, he will meet with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. Council will bring up the pilot project concept at UBCM.

Another suggestion that came up was to create a place for people who are drunk to sober up.

“Because obviously, them spending time in the park and the public around the sidewalk … when they’re inebriated is not a good thing so maybe there’s some sort of a facility we can get set up so they’re not a nuisance to themselves and to the public,” said Vicktor.

Vicktor said he would like the task force to involve people who have been in challenging circumstances such as homelessness.

“It might be a good way to get additional information — why they do what they do — and maybe it’s part of their healing process as well,” said Vicktor.