It was impressive to see such intense discussion and debate from Vernon Council Monday night on the Activate Safety Task Force recommendations.
To say it was exhaustive debate would be underreporting the work that was done. In all, the council meeting went for six and a half hours.
There was exhaustion, exasperation, exaltation and emotion. While this was a marathon session, it’s only the start of the work that needs to be done. But, it is a start. We called for action in this space recently, and this is the beginning of that effort.
Some of the concepts were well-thought-out and were supported by precedent: A privately-funded needle refund program for one, and stepping up bylaw officer time and effort on safety compliance for another. But the idea to ban shopping carts in public places is a prime example of missing the point entirely and is akin to expecting a recycled Band-Aid to adequately cover a gaping chest wound.
Think about it… if you take away shopping carts from homeless people, they are just going to have to find another means of conveyance to gather and transport all of their worldly belongings. They will likely have to steal wagons, baby carriers and bike trailers in lieu. A ban will force more illegal behaviour and will unlikely do anything to ease the problem.
The City of Vernon needs to research best practices that have worked in similar jurisdictions, that were created and implemented by proven experts, modify them in ways that reflect the nuances of our specific challenges and culture, and put them in practice.
We can never truly eradicate homelessness, as some people are unable to conform to societal norms either because of addiction or mental health issues. But surely we can do better than ill-conceived surface solutions that will most likely net negative outcomes.