Business leaders and members of the public shared their thoughts about the issues in Terrace’s downtown during the virtual “Community Dialogue on the Downtown” event on July 14.
Conducted via Microsoft Teams and streamed live to the City of Terrace Facebook page starting at 6 p.m., the event took place a month after the city declared a ‘crisis’ downtown due to homelessness, mental health and addiction issues and crime.
The evening began with City of Terrace and Northern Health presentations summarizing events leading up to the virtual meeting and existing services in the city. Then members of the business community and public were given an opportunity to speak on the issues.
Lana Greene spoke on behalf of Moms Stop The Harm, an organization of mothers who have lost children to substance use related deaths. She said that the group is proposing a resolution to present to the federal government and would share that resolution with city council.
Thomas Keller, president of the Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce, commended the city and other stakeholders on their work to date, adding that the community needs to continue to hold senior government’s “feet to the fire” and advocate for mental health and addictions treatment.
That was followed by Noman Khan, general manager of the Terrace Days Inn. He voiced his frustration with having to deal with human excrement, theft and harassment in the vicinity of the hotel daily.
“Right now the situation in the downtown is getting worse and worse,” he said. “My guests are not safe at all, my staff are not safe, I’m not safe, my kids are not safe, nobody is safe.”
Khan said that he recently lost a substantial business opportunity due to the presence of people experiencing homelessness around his building, and has received death threats.
Lisa Lawley, representing the Kermode Friendship Society, encouraged more wraparound supports, especially for women and pregnant women who are vulnerable. She said that the community should work to eliminate stigma because it is a barrier to people seeking help.
Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross said that people cannot be forced into treatment, and money, buildings and programs alone will not solve the problem. He said that finding out who is experiencing homelessness and why is extremely important.
“Get some of these people to actually help society with some of the issues not related to their current life,” he said.
“A community garden, helping beautify Terrace, that’s a great idea … this bike repair shop, ask these people to come and learn how to repair bikes and provide a service, reintegrate them back into society.”
Skeena — Bulkley Valley NDP MP Taylor Bachrach attended the event but elected not to speak, and there were no speakers from the RCMP.
B.C.’s premier, John Horgan, was also sent an invite to attend but was not present for the meeting.
City staff are in the process of collating the feedback from the event into a report to be shared with the public and council at a later date.
Members of the public who were unable to attend the Community Dialogue in the Downtown can view the entire event on the city’s Facebook page, and can visit engage.terrace.ca to submit ideas and concerns until Sept. 3.