Kelowna council hears safety update

Kelowna city council was updated on actions being taken in the community following the Public Safety Report done by Bill McKinnon last year.

Staff highlighted leadership, policing, awareness and stigma and basic needs as key themes in the update.

The report noted that leadership was as the most prominent area for recommendations, suggesting that the city take the lead with respect to social issues in the community.

Newly appointed Director of Community Safety, Lance Kayfish, told council that many initiatives are already complete or in progress.

The Kelowna Outreach and Situation Table (KOaST) and Journey Home are currently underway to identify people at risk of crisis in the community and transition them and the homeless into supportive housing.

 “For the city, leadership will be demonstrated through actively engaging and being at the table, investing staff time and resources, convening and facilitating to solve problems and policies,” said Kayfish.

It was determined in the 2012 Prosser report that RCMP were lacking in resources when compared to policing demands.

While Kelowna has hired 15 additional officers since then, another six RCMP members were added to the 2019 budget. One more is being requested specifically to work on issues arising from KOaST.

Additionally, Kayfish introduced the ideas of a tiered policing system and re-establishing a community court, both of which will be looked at in the five year RCMP resourcing plan.

Finally, he pointed out the recommendation to increase the availability of basic needs like water, washrooms, transportation and housing.

The City is working on these but has no plans to finalize additional services in time for the summer.

Councillor Loyal Wooldridge pointed out that safe injections site have stated that people are not detoxing fast enough to be helped into supportive housing.

“We have to get a lot louder with our federal and provincial partners to get that treatment started sooner rather than later because if housing is going to be successful we have to have those supportive services.”

Lance Kayfish expressed that at the end of the day, “the goal is to get to the root cause, not just the symptoms of what we see day to day.”