I’ve been living in Terrace since the early 60s and during that time, I have seen a lot of things come and go. As long as I can remember, we have always had our issues with transients and people living outside of what society considers “normal.” We have always had one or two guys who chose, for whatever reason, to live outside or in tents or under bridges. We have also had families and people who, through no fault of their own, found themselves in a homeless or in an under-homed situation.
What we have not seen is the massive influx of “street people” that have so drastically and negatively affected the general well-being of our town. Every year, more and more people are wandering about our downtown core, aggressively pan handling, drinking and engaging in public acts that are unacceptable to the rest of us. And every year, these people seem to attract a larger and younger cadre of followers, perhaps drawn to the rebellion of this lifestyle or perhaps seeking comfort with like-minded people in similar situations.
Recently, we had a homeless camp appear at the entrance to our City. Some people were at first bemused, others shocked and horrified, and others moved to take positive action. Social media became a hot bed of stories about people aggressively accosted for money, property going missing and of strangers appearing in our back yards. Facebook groups sprang up to counter the massive increase in thefts from businesses and private homes and vehicles. Vigilante action and “justice” was publicly threatened. After intense pressure, two of the “camps” were broken up by property owners who fell trees and cleared properties but not surprisingly, the problem quickly reappeared elsewhere.
The majority of the people of this City have shown themselves time and time again to be caring people who are capable of banding together to help a family in need, no matter the cause, In this case, they have come together to say “when is enough, enough”? What is enough theft? What is enough public drunkenness and urinating and worse? Why are our resources, both public and private, being consumed with continually arresting, chasing and releasing the same band of scofflaws? Our precious human resources and financial capital should be spent on those truly in need, not people stealing from our homes and businesses.
The next part of the question is this: If you are truly here to look for work from wherever you came from, why are there still literally dozens of businesses looking for employees? If you came here looking for work “in the LNG”, why aren’t you in Kitimat where “the LNG” is? To come here with no home and no plan is a poor plan, at very best.
The City and societies within it have worked hard to provide low-income housing and shelters, but has anyone seen any improvement in the situation? It seems the more services we are able to offer, the more people flock to the area to take advantage of them. Therefore, we aren’t looking after our own, we are becoming in effect, a destination for troubled people.
We need to help those who really need it and deploy those resources that we have available to make that happen. The conversations are hard and the solutions difficult, but we need to make hard choices. We simply cannot afford to look after people who won’t look after themselves and those who come only to steal from us and to make a mess of our town.