Some of the measures proposed by the Activate Safety Task Force will be adopted by the City of Vernon — while others will not, for cost or other reasons.
However, council did take the 46 recommendations seriously, debating each and every one in the longest council meeting in recent memory at over six hours, half of which was devoted to the Task Force.
The suggestions were made by the nine person committee earlier this month to reduce the impact of the street entrenched population on businesses.
On Monday, Council rejected the idea for a City-funded needle refund program, which Mayor Akbal Mund was against.
“I don’t know how a program funded by a city for a needle exchange would actually work. Would we collect the needles here at city hall? Obviously we wouldn’t, but there’s been no thought put into this, so we’re voting on something that no thought has been put into. I think that’s a pretty irresponsible way to run council and run something from the the taxpayers,” Mund told the media.
The city will investigate a private model for a needle refund program which has worked in other cities like Kamloops and Penticton, according to reports.
Council did approve banning shopping carts on public property which could take effect in a month or so, once a bylaw is passed, meaning homeless residents would have to use backpacks or other ways to transport for their items.
Councillor Scott Anderson, who was a member of the task force, says he’s pleased the shopping cart rule was passed, which he says will make it more difficult for people to use the carts to carry around their items.
“How much difference it will make, I’m don’t know, but it does send the message that, ‘Look, we’re serious about this.’ If you want to drag around three shopping carts full of junk and then leave them on somebody’s property, you’ll have to modify that behaviour, or find a jurisdiction where you can do that,” Anderson told Beach Radio News.
Anderson says the changes that were approved are aimed at getting trouble-making transients out of their comfort zone.
“Behaviours don’t change just on their own. There is a cause benefit to them. Unless you push somebody toward recovery, they’re just not going to do it, especially if they’re quite comfortable in their space.”
Council also agreed to add two more sharps containers to collect discarded needles, and to look into more washrooms for the downtown area.
Other ideas by the task force that council rejected included a the city covering costs for after-hours security for businesses, and the city paying the cost to remove illegally dumped garbage on private property.
Councillor Juliette Cunningham was not impressed with council’s debate on the issue, several times saying council needed more information on the costs, adding she felt the process was disturbing, offensive, and crazy.
“I’m not sure I can sit through any more of this. I find this really offensive,” said Cunningham.