Homelessness, needles, need for RCMP officers dominates public safety discussion

By Spencer Sterritt
March 3, 2018 - 6:31am

Solutions suggested by the community about how to tackle vacant and derelict buildings, specifically the A&B Sound building downtown.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW Staff

NANAIMO — At a recent public safety meeting, you could clearly tell what was on everyone's mind.

The same issues: homelessness, discarded needles and a perceived lack of RCMP enforcement, were brought up at every table by community members, even if the suggested topic for that table was something different.

“Most of the people, I feel, are on the side of protecting the kids,” concerned mother and returning face Alison Evans told NanaimoNewsNOW after the event. She'd previously raised concerns about her daughter possibly being pricked by a needle at Ecole Pauline Haarer.

She said she was encouraged to see the community hone in on specific issues, rather than talk about abstract solutions.

“I think it's a great idea to have people come out here and I'm really glad so many people supported it, came out and gave their opinions because this is the only way we get some change.”

City staff and councillors were stationed at each table, which was a welcome show of support from parent Harlan Richards after he said he attended meetings with no or few councillors.

“It seems a little bit silly to have public engagement if you're not going to have the officials there to engage with,” he said of previous engagement sessions.

Having becoming more involved in watching Nanaimo city council and how the City operates, Richards said it gave him hope to see agencies, such as the RCMP, Nanaimo Fire Rescue, VIU and the City, work together rather than separately on the various issues affecting Nanaimo.

Councillor Sheryl Armstrong, chair of the public safety committee, said she was pleased to see such enthusiasm for public safety, since it's not something which can only be tackled by the City.

“I think it's important that when we do ask people to participate, we acknowledge their participation and solutions and also provide feedback on if it's doable or not and the rationale for why.”

Armstrong said she appreciated all the solutions presented for each issue but stressed not every one was achievable.

“You'll hear from people 'Well I gave you a solution,' but they don't realize how many roadblocks for that solution there are,” she said, using the high cost of sidewalks as an example.

Results from the engagement session are being packaged into a report and Armstrong said to expect them by the middle of March.


[email protected]

On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

Nanaimo's chief financial officer suspended: sources