Downtown businesses organized a meeting last week with Interior Health, Kamloops RCMP, the City of Kamloops and the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association to discuss cleaning up the streets.
Papa G’s Cafe owner Gerald Thiessen said drug dealing, loitering, garbage, improperly discarded needles and bodily fluids are a problem near his restaurant, which is at 561 Seymour St., leading to customers and staff feeling unsafe.
“Several businesses are just fed up with it,” Thiessen told KTW. “It’s in the alleys. It’s in front of our buildings. It’s in the streets. It’s everywhere.”
Thiessen does not wish to point fingers, but wants solutions, such as increased police and bylaws presence or moving the supervised drug-use site (a mobile RV operated by IH), which is stationed two doors down, at 569 Seymour St., home to the Crossroads Inn.
Kamloops Coun. Bill Sarai attended the meeting and empathized with business owners.
He added he has heard of seniors who won’t come out of their homes and day cares that won’t take kids to certain areas of downtown, all during the day.
Sarai suggested moving the supervised drug-use site to the parking lot of the emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital, rather than stationing in amid businesses.
“To me, that’s a no brainer,” Sarai said.
Tara Mochizuki, Interior Health’s manager for community mental health and substance use, disagreed, arguing the harm-reduction service should be in the community.
“If they are acutely medically ill, then that’s what the hospital is there for,” Mochizuki said.
“People who are using drugs certainly have some difficulties, but they’re often social problems that we need to address, as opposed to medical problems that we need to address.”
Mochizuki said social issues predate the supervised drug-use sites, with the two locations — the second located is at the ASK Wellness Society site in North Kamloops, at 422 Tranquille Rd. — chosen specifically because they are where people in need of the services already gather.
Other factors, she said, include the Cariboo wildfire evacuation two years ago that drew people to Kamloops who stayed, coinciding with the sites opening.
In hearing the concerns of businesses, Mochizuki said Interior Health is willing to explore alternative options.
Its current Health Canada exemption is limited to those two addresses, but a review is underway of the operating hours and locations.
No timeline for completion of the review could be provided.
Asked what alternative options could look like, Mochizuki said: “I’m not sure. It’s a bit premature to talk about that yet, but we are looking at alternative options, recognizing that actually both the sites have certain difficulties associated with them at this point.”
In addition to concerns expressed by downtown business owners, construction along West Victoria Street has led to less usage of the North Shore site.
In the short-term, Mochizuki said Interior Health is working on moving the RV from the downtown site to Mission Flats Road when not in operation, rather than have it remain parked at the Crossroads Inn when not in use.
The supervised drug-use sites have restricted days and hours:
• Downtown location is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
• North Kamloops location is open Tuesdays to Fridays from noon to 3:30 p.m.
“It will cut down on the visibility of the supervised consumption site,” Mochizuki said of moving the RV when not in use. “I’m hoping we can get it all organized by the end of the week.”
Meanwhile, Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie said police patrol by foot and bike through the summer, with extra presence at special events.
She said Mounties prioritize emergencies.
“They’re not seeing us, but they’re out there daily,” Shelkie said.
Drug dealing and loitering are considered criminal matters, while garbage, improperly discarded needles and bodily fluids are considered bylaw infractions.
Shelkie advised businesses to keep the dialogue going and contact police at any time by calling 250-828-3000.
The city’s bylaws department can be reached at 250-828-3409.