Last week, the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual forum to hear from local businesses about their growing concerns around homelessness and drug use.
During the conversation, business owners and managers brought up real and very serious concerns about the safety of both their staff and clientele, including some that directly affect their ability to operate on a daily (or nightly) basis.
Everything from open drug dealing and use to theft and even young employees being spat at were presented as challenges businesses face.
While many of their comments were eye-opening, they were not entirely surprising.
Frustration, and even fear, are understandable, given a series of recent assaults in Vancouver, including one in which a woman was stabbed with a dirty needle in what appears to be a random and unprovoked attack.
Police officers, who were included in the online discussion, have a delicate line to walk in not allowing illegal activity to continue, while at the same time treating everyone involved with the respect and sensitivity that all human beings deserve. This is especially true when mental illness is a complicating factor.
Simply moving “offenders” along to another location is not a long-term solution, nor is arresting them.
It’s a problem that continues to grow both in scope and complexity, and what the solution is, we don’t know.
Last week’s forum is a good first step toward finding some meaningful answers.
But in order to do that, the conversation must be expanded to include those whose voices are seldom heard or, at the very least, someone who is willing and able to advocate on their behalf.