It was good to see that the primary focus of Tuesday’s workshop about downtown Vernon safety was focused on finding solutions than spreading fear and pointing fingers.
Now obviously any activities that put others at risk or create a sense of fear should not be tolerated. Authorities must take immediate action when laws are broken.
However, all of us in the community must understand that simply asking for spare change is not an offense if it’s done respectfully and there is no intimidation.
Simply being homeless or hanging out on the corner does not mean they are involved in criminal activity. If anything, it may mean they are preyed on by those who take advantage of others, including drug sellers and johns.
The homeless and the disadvantaged are part of our community and they have the same right to frequent downtown just as any other citizen, as long as they are respectful.
“Let’s not label one group as the root of the problem,” said Mayor Akbal Mund after the workshop.
As a result of the meeting, the city, the RCMP, social agencies and the Downtown Vernon Association have vowed to keep communication lines open to ensure that the downtown core continues to be a safe place for everyone.
Information is available to merchants on community resources available for those on the street and strategies on managing potential risks.
Discussions will continue and that is absolutely necessary if these concerns about safety, whether they are real or are perceived, are addressed.
But critical to the process is that we, as a community, not lose a sense of compassion for our neighbours.