It appears the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society’s pilot project to provide security to the downtown area was a success. The Northern Valley Rangers, a Nisga’a-based security company, was strategically contracted to provide more than security in the traditional sense, but to facilitate an actual dialogue on the street level.
“They developed repertoire and respect with the people they engage with, demonstrated their ability to work constructively with the bylaw officer and the RCMP, gradually taking steps to connect individuals with the services,” said TDIA president Dave Gordon.
On May 27, TDIA reported on the success of the pilot project to Terrace council and informally asked the city to extend the contract for the remainder of the year, at a cost of $70,000.
Sean Bujtas dampened TDIA’s hopes with justifiable logic: it’s not the city’s responsibility.
“We need to find solutions but the province isn’t stepping up and dealing with the issue, which is really their issue to deal with,” he said. “That’s the other problem with taking it on as it just becomes another download onto the municipality from the province. Homelessness and mental health issues are all provincial mandate.”
An email from the city confirmed the budget is finalized for the fiscal year, but the society is welcome to request funding next time around.
It may be worth noting this budget also allocates $85,000 for hanging flower baskets. And as much as we appreciate the value of aesthetics, when your eye is trained downward at the man in the gutter, what’s the likelihood you’ll notice the fine flowers overhead.
Bujtas is right to point the finger at the province and the administration is right to highlight fiscal responsibility. But the homeless numbers are growing and public frustration is escalating in tandem.
Downtown security with the Northern Valley Rangers at the very least freed police to respond to bigger issues than public vagrancy, and at the best it steered the homeless to services that can lift them off the streets.
Social services help only to a limited degree, as was noted during TDIA’s presentation to council, which too often coddles those in need with few or no expectations in return. What this program provided was “firm hand and a fair hand at the same time” to help resolve the issues.
To see the project abruptly end is unfortunate. We can only hope council (and the province) sees the value in this progressive method of security in the next fiscal year.