There will be no easy answers to the issue of bad behaviour in Bovill Square, according to a report heard by Smithers Town Council this week.
Substance abuse, intoxication and aggressive behaviour in the public space have prompted concerns from some business owners and community members.
The report concluded that the behaviour is only a symptom and the issue involves multiple complex causes, including addiction, trauma and mental illness.
But what is the solution? Suggestions so far include a panhandling bylaw and an alternative gathering space.
“We need to try some different things in order to change the situation,” says Mayor Taylor Bachrach. “The status quo isn’t acceptable and we’re certainly hearing loudly and clearly from part of the community that they want to see some improvement.”
To find a solution, the Smithers Community Services Association and other partners plan to form a working group.
Bachrach says it’s a good first step.
“[Smithers Council] really want to be a proactive member of that organization and to co-lead it because, as local government, we feel a sense of responsibility for the situation. Ultimately, I think the community holds us accountable, perhaps more than anyone, if things don’t improve.”
Bachrach says he’s hopeful an effective solution will be found, despite the complex issues involved.
“The test is going to be whether we can come up with unique strategies, positive things we can do that have a positive impact on the situation and don’t make it worse. That’s the last thing we want – to do things that might provide band=aid solutions but, in the long term, deepen some of the problems we have.”
Bachrach says everyone is welcome in downtown Smithers.
The SCSA will submit a proposal to secure funding for the group from the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA).