An elderly man sleeps curled up under a garbage bag.

Photo Credit: VanIsle.News Staff

Guess What’s Cheaper Than Cops?

We're facing huge problems, and policing isn't fixing them

This solution is more fiscally responsible

Lots of our neighbours are living on the streets in Campbell River. In most cases, these folks have lived in Campbell River their whole lives. Now the only place they have to call home is a tent.

The situation has be a hot topic in the last few city council meetings. But there’s nothing new about the havoc caused by residents who have to live without a house.

The fact is, if you don’t have a place to live, everything that would usually happen behind closed doors happens in public.

“The point I want to make is this is not new. This is not news,” councillor Ron Kerr said. “This has been happening for years… Things are getting worse. Absolutely. But they have been worse. For years. This is something that we have not been able to address, have not been able to take care of. It’s a blight on our downtown.”

Unfortunately, as with most issues, just hating that it exists gets us nowhere.

“Just acknowledging the fact that it’s happening is not the answer. You know, we have to do a lot more,” said Kerr.

Recently, council discussed the cost of policing the overdose prevention site downtown.

The cost in salary alone for the police officers to regulate the area was nearly $300,000 over the past two years.

“I couldn’t even believe it when I was reading this,” said Councillor Kermit Dahl at the September 6th meeting. “We’ve spent $298,413 to police one building and 1.4 officers dedicated to one building. And we’ve had no impact whatsoever.”

Big question, then: if policing isn’t making a difference, why are we still spending money on police to handle people in crisis?

As a society, we need to admit when our old methods don’t work.

Imagine if that $300,000 got spent on supporting the folks who live on that block?

Study after study has shown that giving folks a place to live is cheaper than paying for police, jails, and hospitals to care for homeless folks.

It’s called Housing First. When you give affordable, stable housing to folks, they can work on other challenges, like mental health or drug problems.

And it lowers the public costs of homelessness.

But the places that ran these studies must be kinder than we are. And more fiscally responsible.

Mayor Andy Adams said, “We need the province to step up and provide the enforcement, the facilities and the care that’s required to address those that are in severe need or need to be looked after.”

It’s true that it’s hard to tackle big city problems with a small city budget. We need investments from the provincial and federal budgets.

But those investments should go to support.

We need a new approach to solving homelessness in Campbell River. Because throwing more cops at the problem clearly isn’t working.