Campbell River is not unlike many Vancouver Island communities trying to grapple with a growing homeless population and the unruly behaviour that can go along with it.
At the Tyee Apartments, a new rental building in the core, manager Patti Webster says she’s seen it all and cleans it up too.
“This is where they go to the washroom, right here up against the fence and in the trees right there and when they notice the camera they wave,” said Webster.
A popular hangout for the homeless or others who live in the nearby Harbourside Inn on Shoppers Row is an area around a BC Hydro box right in front of Webster’s apartment where people can be seen daily openly drinking alcohol and loitering all day.
Webster says it often leads to fights and arguing in front of her building and her tenants.
“And it scares them because when they have to walk to go out somewhere it ends up being total harassment for them. It’s unsafe,” said Webster.
Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams doesn’t disagree.
“Myself and council are extremely concerned with the escalating issues that are occurring throughout our downtown,” said Adams.
In a recent meeting held online with a dozen stakeholders, Adams said that over $2.4 million dollars spent trying to address the issue has resulted in little to show for it.
“These increases in inappropriate behaviour must be addressed and cannot continue,” he said.
Campbell River RCMP detachment commander Inspector Jeff Preston says police are making it a priority to deal with downtown issues and is working collaboratively with community groups to address problems relating to homelessness.
He says patrols are increasing but adds there are “limits to what the courts can or will do with respect to social issues.”
Some downtown businesses say they’re noticing an improvement due to the increased police presence.
“They’ll ask them politely if they can take the booze away and then they’ll dump it, so that’s how they’re getting them to move along,” said Kodie Harpell, owner of Photo Tech on Shoppers Row.
Harpell says local homeless people hanging out around his store has hurt business in the past but that it does seem to be improving.
BC Housing recently purchased a former downtown restaurant to convert into housing for some of the city’s most vulnerable.
The Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness says its main position is around increasing housing and supports for people experiencing homelessness – creating space for everyone in our community.