Owner of Hope Optical Cindy Koszegi speaks to a group of 20 Hope residents gathered at the Silver Chalice Pub for the first meeting of #takebackHope. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Twenty attend meeting on drug use and aggressive panhandling in downtown Hope

Those present at first meeting of #takebackhope May 15 agree on letter writing and protest

A group which started on Facebook has held their first public meeting with plans to tackle the problems of negative behaviours in Hope’s downtown core, including open drug and alcohol consumption and aggressive panhandling.

Twenty residents attended the first meeting of #takebackHope at the Silver Chalice Pub May 15, where concerns were voiced and plans hatched for how to bring attention to aggressive panhandling and rampant public drug use, as well as wider societal issues of mental health and addictions.

Stories were shared about elderly citizens having a hand shoved into their car by someone panhandling, children witnessing people injecting drugs into their arms and residents avoiding Memorial Park altogether.

“Things are as bad now, as they were at their worst point last year. We haven’t even hit tourist season yet, so we have to do our part as a community, to take back Hope,” said Cindy Koszegi, owner of Hope Optical, who chaired the meeting. She called for a letter-writing campaign, a petition and a sit-in protest in Memorial Park to bring attention to the issues downtown.

Those present at the meeting discussed and agreed that it was a few individuals, well-known in the community, who are causing the problems downtown. However, Koszegi said, new people who come to Hope are being shown the ropes by these individuals.

The District of Hope, Chawathil First Nation and the RCMP were all brought up as organizations who need to have a hand in any potential solutions.

Many present at the meeting brought up the need for more presence in downtown Hope, but opinions differed on which organizations would be best. The Hope Crime Prevention Society was mentioned, as was British Columbia Protection Services, RCMP and District bylaw officers.

#takebackhope

Posted by Crystal Sedore on Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A video played at the beginning of the meeting detailed steps people can take to avoid perpetuating issues of aggressive panhandling and open substance use. These included not giving money and not buying alcohol when asked by someone panhandling, notifying the district and RCMP and encouraging people to help but through appropriate channels like the food bank. The group plans to blast the video across social media.

“This is where it all began,” Koszegi said to close the meeting off.

The #takebackHope Facebook group is a closed group with 329 members.


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