Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross is joining the call to solve Terrace’s three interconnected dilemmas – addictions, homelessness and public safety, suggesting it’s time to take a non-partisan approach.
And that includes getting the leadership from municipal, First Nations and other governments to the same table.
Ross’ sentiments have been echoed recently by local leaders with Terrace councillor Sean Bujtas calling for a regional lobby group to get the province to step in and fix the social service crisis in the city.
With homelessness, drug use, anti-social behaviour continuing to grow in the downtown core, it has sparked concerns from citizens about personal safety and from businesses about crime and shoplifting.
Ross said he has witnessed social issues like addiction and substance abuse drastically worsen with more lethal drugs hitting the market in the region over the last couple of decades.
This has further exacerbated issues of public safety for residents in his riding, said Ross who frequently gets messages from citizens expressing concerns about their public safety.
“What I find is that it’s mostly women that come to my office and complain about the fear of their safety, including my wife,” said Ross, adding that this is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
Ross said Terrace’s situation is similar to Vancouver’s Strathcona Park where a homeless encampment has resulted in rising crime and in Maple Ridge, a lower mainland community also experiencing homelessness and rising crime.
The issue of street people and resulting anti-social behaviour is not about housing and affordability and is not a simple problem to fix, particularly for smaller municipalities that have limited resources, he added.
“Right now the municipalities have a lot to do on their own and it’s either a do-as- I-say-approach from the province or it’s a do-nothing and smaller municipalities are not equipped with the resources to deal with these problems on their own,” he said.
In the past, Terrace has held a town hall meeting to address some of these social issues and the community is aware of the existing problems.
But to deal with multi-layered problems – affordable housing shortage, lack of mental health services and trained professionals in the northwest region – Ross said that there needs to be a structured approach.
“And it is unfair to lay all of this at the feet of the municipalities,” he said.