The Loop drop-in centre for the homeless and others in need has opted to remain closed despite a vow to reopen on Friday (July 23) following a Thursday morning visit from city community service (bylaws) officers.
Heather McDonald, who volunteers at The Loop as its main cook, said they decided to comply with the City of Kamloops’ request to close their operations. Staff, she said, were at the facility at Tranquille Road and MacKenzie Avenue conducting a cleanup of the building Friday.
“We’re not serving, we are not putting out any tables,” McDonald said. “Glenn [Hilke] will decide what the next move is, but for right now our main goal, I think, is not to antagonize the city and to do what we can to get ready and hopefully open again.”
McDonald said staff are also trying to cook or give away any perishable food they have in the building as they don’t know when they might reopen.
“We’re not moving the furniture out [of the building], let’s put it that way, but we’re getting ready for a possible long holiday,” McDonald said.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian told KTW there is a process to unfold as the city moves to close the facility, the steps for which will follow. He noted there are opportunities for an appeal on The Loop’s end.
On Thursday morning, a physical altercation occurred between guests at The Loop and a man who walked on to the property, allegedly making threats. People at the facility described him as a “vigilante.” Video posted online showed a man having words with and getting into a shoving match with apparent guests, leading to a number of people surrounding the man and throwing punches — and a motorcycle helmet — at him. A community services officer at the scene eventually managed to break apart the parties, with Mounties also arriving.
“The situation got quite out of hand,” Christian told KTW, describing it as “potentially explosive.”
He said a community services officer was doing a routine patrol in the area when he intervened and called in a mayday, triggering the arrival of three more community service units and five police units.
Christian told KTW the city’s community services department took action against the property on Thursday, ordering it to close and to have items stacked outside the building cleaned up, as a result of the altercation earlier that morning.
The drop-in centre has served as a space for the homeless and others to congregate and get water and meals, but has been the subject of numerous complaints related to people congregating, drug use and garbage left behind. In May, the city designated it a nuisance property.
Christian confirmed the incident was the final straw and that The Loop is being closed on the grounds that it has not met expectations for properties designated as nuisances under its bylaws. He said in the months since, the situation there has deteriorated further.
“We weren’t planning on doing anything, but you have an incident like that [on Thursday], it can quickly involve bystanders, so this is a situation that’s just not tolerable there or anywhere, quite frankly,” Christian said. “When you start to enable that kind of congregation, you’re asking for trouble and it’s trouble we don’t want to have there.”
Christian said when a property is given a nuisance designation, the expectation is to work in lockstep with community service officers and make improvements to lessen the impact on the surrounding neighbourhood, which he said hasn’t happened in this case.
“The situation at The Loop has become one that is disturbing to area businesses and homes,” Christian said, noting the facility is hosting more people than it can handle and the problem is the behaviours of some, of which some are those impacted by addiction issues.
Following the closure, Hilke, the main organizer behind The Loop, which is managed by the Lived Experience Community Life and Peer Skills Program, told media the facility would reopen on Friday and remain so until they received an official order from the municipality.
On Friday morning, just a few vehicles could be seen parked at The Loop, but there was no patio furniture or guests outside as is the case with its usual operations.
Hilke said he heard from someone at the city that The Loop has had its business license temporarily revoked.
Christian told KTW he hasn’t been apprised of that yet.
The Loop had its funding pulled by the city. It was set to receive $38,000 from a federal grant the city administers, but that was denied after a due diligence review. Dollars from the grant are being used to support two day area spaces for the homeless, operated by a myriad social agencies, over the next four months. One of those spaces is being opened a half-block rom The Loop — behind the Northbridge Hotel and out of the view of Tranquille Rod traffic — but won’t be operational for another week or two. A second space will be downtown on Victoria Street West, next to the city’s storage facility for the homeless.
McDonald advised anyone looking to utilize The Loop’s services at the moment to visit other agencies in the city, such as The Mustard Seed at 181 Victoria St. W,
“There’s nowhere on the North Shore, that’s the sad thing,” McDonald said, adding that she would like to see The Loop reopen at its current location, but the possibility of reopening at another location has been discussed.
“We’re looking at all options,” she said.
McDonald said she knows some of the guests personally and plans to make them something to eat at her own home.
“I’m trying to figure out a way to still get food and water to people without antagonizing the city,” she said.