Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian says an “urban legend” exists in the city, one that claims the ASK Wellness Society has caused problems when, the non-profit is part of the solution. Christian praised the organization, which is often contracted for housing projects by BC Housing, for work in Kamloops, Penticton and Merritt.
The outgoing mayor raised the issue at Tuesday’s (Sept. 20) council meeting during discussion about funding for a new Clean Streets team in North Kamloops and amidst an election season that has put social issues in the spotlight.
Christian said the idea that ASK Wellness is part of the problem is “categorically untrue.” In addition, he said he continues to hear another urban legend, that homeless people are being bussed into Kamloops. Christian said he finds it frustrating when people blame the homeless for drug, crime and other problems.
“As we approach an election campaign, I hear a lot of this rhetoric and I find it kind of frustrating that good organizations are really being besmirched by misinformation out there in many corners,” Christian said.
Coun. Arjun Singh said ASK Wellness has been “targeted,” noting he has heard similar comments from respected people in the community and from residents with whom he has spoken in their homes. Singh said social agencies are doing good work, noting he is concerned about the safety of their employees.
He said threats have been reported to the Kamloops RCMP.
“This is not the society we want to live in,” Singh said.
Christian invited ASK Wellness staff to meet with city council after the election.
City council, meanwhile, approved a $30,000 service agreement — as well as in-kind donations of a side-by-side pickup truck and cleaning supplies — to pilot the new Clean Team in North Kamloops.
The program is also being funded by ASK Wellness and supported by the North Shore Business Improvement Association. The team will provide employment opportunities for marginalized people, who will be cleaning up litter, feces and more on the Tranquille Corridor.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said the program is indicative of solutions council has been asking for, noting the pilot could be modelled in other parts of town, if successful.
Coun. Bill Sarai said the city is also in “dire need” of a public bathroom facility in the area. But the city’s community services director Byron McCorkell said there is no logical spot for the city to connect a washroom, adding it is also challenging for non-profit agencies to provide a bathroom.
“In order to provide a public washroom, it creates issues with their operations — no different than it does with the washrooms that are available at the gas stations,” he said. “So, those are things they’re working through. There’s no easy answer to it and we continue to try and find a solution that might work.”