Duncan’s bylaw officers can’t make the community’s many social problems go away, Rachel Hastings, Duncan’s manager of building and bylaw services, told council at its meeting on March 21.
Hastings was responding to a question from Mayor Michelle Staples asking what the bylaw department’s biggest challenges are after Hastings gave council an update on the department’s activities.
Hastings said that from a staffing perspective, walking a fine line between managing people’s expectations that bylaw officers can minimize the impacts of social issues to a degree where the community is happy, while dealing with the homeless people on the streets with enough compassion so the city workers can still continue to have conversations with them, while meeting the intent of the bylaws is very challenging.
“We get put in very challenging positions all the time where we have to be able to speak with a myriad of different groups, and there’s no resolution in that,” she said.
“We can’t make this all go away; that’s the hard and fast of the issue. We can try to minimize the impacts the best we can through programs like the sharps pick-up team, and minimizing the things left on the street. We can try to ensure people have places to go and we can help them get to where they need to go, and we can contact the RCMP when things escalate and they can come and give us the support that is required.”
But, Hastings again stressed to council, at the end of the day, bylaw officers can’t make these issue go away.
“That has been one of our biggest challenges,” she said.
“We’d like to find a resolution for everyone but, unfortunately, it’s out of our control.”
Staples then asked Hastings what some of the biggest successes in the department are under her watch.
Hastings responded that the ongoing collaboration bylaw officers and the department have developed with other groups in the community who also work with social issues has been very successful.
“Even though there aren’t always solutions, there’s always a phone call that can be made and different groups that can be brought in to provide different services and different options,” she said.
“Another success is minimizing the number of fires being set [by homeless people] by collaborating to open up the extreme weather shelters in a timely fashion.”