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Death by committee still better than death on the streets

Other than the name – The Select Committee on A Safe, Clean, and Inclusive Downtown – the city has done a reasonable job of striking the group that will fix all that ails downtown.

Since the issue of homelessness, crime, drug abuse, and people with mental health problems was first raised by the business community, the city kind of had to put a representatives from Downtown Prince George, the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, and the Gateway Business Improvement Area on the committee. Although, it would have been nice if those groups, who have pooled their resources to present some suggestions/demands to city council, had only one rep, maybe two, on the committee.

Three business reps, the mayor, the RCMP, Northern Health, BC Housing … gee, maybe a few less people making six figures on the committee would make it, uh, more representative of those we’re trying to help? Seek first to understand, then be understood. Isn’t that how the self-help quip goes?

In fairness, the committee will be rounded out by representatives from AWAC, the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, and five others from throughout the community who “have knowledge and experience related to Prince George social issues, with emphasis on the downtown area, and be familiar with the impacts on, and responsibilities of, various levels of government, non-profit organizations, and businesses for alleviating those issues.”

One of my suggestions for the committee is Daniel Roy, the former prolific offender/addict/homeless man who bared his soul at public meeting talking about hitting rock bottom on the edge of the Simon Fraser Bridge with a rope around his neck before changing his life around.

If the committee is going “seek first to understand,” which it must, then who better to help with that than someone who has worn the shoes of a homeless man in Prince George. He will know, better than anyone, what works and what doesn’t.

Although there is a Northern Health rep on the committee, a rep specifically from the needle exchange would be beneficial as it has come increasingly under attack during this community debate. FYI, ‘harm reduction’ is a code word for the needle exchange. There are many, not just the business reps, who would like to see it moved out of the downtown completely, if not out of the city. The business groups want Northern Health to label their needles so the ‘harm reduction’ folks can be responsible for ensuring “all agencies are accountable for the recovery and disposal of the materials provided to users.” While they’re at it, maybe Timmy’s can clean up their cups and McDonald’s their burger wrappers.

The needle exchange is being targeted. It should have a strong voice to defend itself and to help committee members “seek first to understand.”

That being said, the committee is a good, necessary step in dealing with the problems downtown. There are already lots of good ideas being bandied about. The business associations have some good suggestions. Some not so good. But that’s what’s needed … different ideas from different people from different walks of life.

The status quo isn’t working, so the key to moving forward is for all of us to change.

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