What do mayoral candidates have to say about supporting Kamloops’ unhoused population?

We asked candidates about unhoused residents and municipal safety.
Rick Greenwood sits at a plastic table with a coffee.
Rick Greenwood has been unhoused since he lost his carpentry job last December. He says Kamloops’ politicians haven’t addressed the issues facing the city’s vulnerable residents. Photo by Eagle Andersen/The Wren

In April 2021, a survey conducted by the City of Kamloops in association with multiple non-profits identified 206 individuals experiencing homelessness in the municipality. While this number has likely changed in the year since, the focus of elected officials on Kamloops’ (Tk’emlúps’) unhoused residents has not. 

Now, with the 2022 municipal election coming up on Oct. 15, mayoral candidates have been debating a wide range of topics important to Kamloopsians, including transportation infrastructure, affordable housing and resources for unhoused people.

The Wren spoke to all five mayoral candidates — and one unhoused person living in Kamloops — about the election’s impact on vulnerable residents.

‘I don’t want to do a winter. I don’t think I could survive a winter.’

For 52-year-old Rick Greenwood, who’s been unhoused since he lost his carpentry job last December, the results of the upcoming election are more important than ever. 

Originally from a small district north of Liverpool, England, Greenwood immigrated to Canada in 2007 and moved to Kamloops with his now ex-wife in 2009.

But in 2015, a series of events led Greenwood to move into the Emerald Center homeless shelter for a period of time.

“That was the beginning of my journey, my experiences with drugs,” he recollected. “I’ve been through the whole spectrum.”

Although he’s now mostly drug-free, Greenwood ran into more difficulties nine months ago when he lost his carpentry job. He then spent several months living in a hostel but has been sleeping outdoors since May. 

Greenwood says he isn’t currently using drugs but has seen others struggle with the challenges of active addiction. 

“I’ve seen other people who are in it,” he said. “I’ve seen people get into debt with their drug dealers.” 

Greenwood said there needs to be more support for drug users in Kamloops. He’d like to see a support system to help provide financial assistance, acknowledging there would need to be certain measures in place so that this system doesn’t get taken advantage of.

Being unhoused has also left Greenwood vulnerable to crime and violence. In September, he says he was robbed and lost all of his possessions. He was also attacked in early October which resulted in a hospital visit. 

What Greenwood said he ultimately wants from city officials is more tangible action.

City officials need “to find the individuals who are doing the real hardcore stuff” in order to keep Kamloops safe, he says.

Like many in the same situation, Greenwood hopes to secure housing before the snow falls.

“I don’t want to do a winter. I don’t think I could survive a winter. I’m getting old, I’m 52. I wake up in the morning, I’m on the ground and it’s cold. I make it, but it’s not a fun life.”

The services put in place by elected officials could be a game-changer for Greenwood and others who are currently unhoused in the city. But those policies depend on who gets elected to city council this weekend.

‘We’re failing a lot of people who are on our streets.’

Of the five mayoral candidates who spoke to The Wren, three say compassion, outreach and housing would be their main focus if elected.

Dieter Dudy emphasized the need to empathize with the unhoused population.

 “It’s not that they’re necessarily criminals, it’s that they’re sick. They need the help, that’s where compassion comes in,” he says.

If elected, he says he plans to lobby the provincial government for assistance on the issue. 

As a current councillor, he says he has been voicing concerns to the provincial government without getting any traction.

“If I’m in the mayor’s office I’m going to become a major thorn in the side of the provincial government.”

Having once relied on many social services as a young single mother, Sadie Hunter says she understands the impact programs and policies can have. Like Dudy, she also serves as a councillor and believes much more still needs to be done.

“We need more housing, we need more wraparound services and supports, we need complex care beds [and] we need another Car 40,” she says.

Car 40 is a program that pairs RCMP officers with mental health professionals to respond to certain emergency calls in the community.

Regardless of the strategies that she plans to implement, Hunter maintains a realistic view of the situation. 

“It’s a complex issue. The biggest thing I hope people understand is that there’s not one magic solution to addressing it,” she explains.

Another current councillor running for mayor, Arjun Singh, acknowledged the municipality could be doing more to help unhoused individuals.

“We’re failing a lot of people who are on our streets,” he says. 

Singh says his platform focuses on connecting with unhoused residents.

“I’m proposing more outreach workers,” he says. “[They are] a great ally of someone who’s homeless and also an ally to the business community and residents who may not understand that world.” 

‘We need to hold them accountable.’

The remaining two candidates for mayor say they reject how the City of Kamloops has been addressing homelessness, although they differ on the methods they’d employ if elected.

Local business owner Ray Dhaliwal spent a brief period on city council in Kamloops from 2017 to 2018. Now vying for the mayoral seat, Dhaliwal says he wants to distance himself from opponents in his approach and address homelessness on a case-by-case basis.

“The rest of the candidates, they want treatment centers. There’s treatment centers all over the place, they’re not working. That model is not working,” he says. “My solution is to take one person at a time, get them into the services they need. Don’t just lump them together.”

Dhaliwal says he believes the approach is feasible despite the estimated over 200 unhoused individuals in Kamloops. 

Finally, local business owner and candidate Reid Hamer-Jackson is making his first foray into politics with some unconventional views. While he was unavailable for an interview with The Wren, Hamer-Jackson spoke about Kamloops’ unhoused population during the Mayoral Forum on Oct. 4.

“[Homelessness is] just spreading out, it started in our area and it’s spread out. And it’s going to keep spreading out if we don’t do something about it. We’ve gotta do something about it now,’ he said.

At the forum, he said he plans to relocate unhoused individuals to the outskirts of the city or to their home city if they’d like to leave Kamloops. 

“If they wanna get back to Toronto or wherever they’re from, they’ve gotta go back. We need to hold them accountable.”

It’s unclear how exactly Hamer-Jackson plans to move these individuals and what he intends to do if they do not want to comply with relocation. 

While involuntary treatment for drug users is being discussed at the provincial level, there is currently no framework for forcing any individual to relocate to a city facility against their will. Additionally, the practice of helping unhoused people to leave cities — “bussing them out” — has been documented in the U.S. but is not common in Canada.

Hamer-Jackson says the city needs to focus spending on programs that help people with addiction and mental health issues while removing them from business areas. 

“We need to get them into safe secure areas away from the city’s downtown core.”

Whoever is elected mayor could have a major impact on unhoused individuals in Kamloops. Greenwood, who has experienced homelessness at different times over the past half-decade, says he knows officials are aware of the issues he faces, but doesn’t feel like they’ve addressed them thoroughly in the past. 

“The city knows what’s going on — they’re not stupid,” he says.

General voting day in Kamloops takes place on Oct. 15, 2022, from 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. For more information, visit The Wren’s voting guide or the City of Kamloops website at kamloops.ca.

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