Opinion

COLUMN: Never a dull moment in Nelson

Authorities did the right thing recently in dismantling the Railtown camp, Kevin Mills writes, although it did nothing to address the larger issue of homelessness. - Nelson Star file photo
Authorities did the right thing recently in dismantling the Railtown camp, Kevin Mills writes, although it did nothing to address the larger issue of homelessness.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

Nine months ago I first arrived in Nelson just in time for winter to begin. I had little idea about what the city was like, who the people are or what to expect.

Well, it’s about 300 days later and my education is still just beginning. Nelson is not the sleepy little town that I was foolish enough to think it would be. In fact it is a thriving community with just as many big city issues and community projects as any place in the Lower Mainland.

One of the more recent issues that arose was the homeless problem. Homelessness is on the rise everywhere and while there is no clear solution, the fact remains it has to be dealt with one way or another.

When authorities chose to dismantle the homeless camp at Railtown, in order to clean up the hazardous conditions, they handled the incident well. Notice was given ahead of time, warning squatters about the move, allowing most people to leave on their own accord and find an alternative, temporary location.

Then the crews came in, evicted the remaining residents and cleaned up the site.

Some thought this was bad treatment, but I disagree (remember, I came here from Abbotsford where chicken manure was dumped on a homeless camp in order to get people to clear the area).

The authorities did the right thing.

Obviously closing the Railtown camp didn’t solve the issue of homelessness, but it wasn’t meant to. It merely allowed authorities to clean up what was becoming an unsightly health hazard. Those people who were evicted have already found another site to make camp, until it becomes so bad that authorities are forced to clean that one too.

Then they’ll move again.

Local committees, politicians and volunteers can plan programs and investigate initiatives — and I thank them for doing so or people would suffer even more — but the truth is the homeless issue will never go away until the federal and provincial governments commit the time and money needed to create real programs and services that can make a difference.

Until then, expect more homeless camps and more clean up projects.

•••

Copper theft? Seriously? When I first heard that thieves had stolen small segments of copper wire from the tramway tracks last weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder who would be so stupid as to a) think that much copper was worth anything, b) rip off a not-for-profit society and c) think they wouldn’t get reported when the brought the small sections of wire into the depot.

It’s likely that now this story has been made public, the missing wire was merely chucked away, rather than sold. Everybody loses in this deal.

•••

Where else but Nelson can you go walking down the main street and suddenly find yourself face-to-face with a 10-foot dancing puppet? That’s what happened to my wife and I as we attended the monthly MarketFest on Baker Street.

The popular event attracted thousands of spectators with its vast array of entertainers, vendors and artisans. It’s a great example of this city’s community spirit.

•••

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce’s restoration project has the old CPR station looking better than ever. Though still more than a year away from completion, work on the structure has already turned it from a decaying shell to a nearly functional site. I can’t wait to see the finished project.

The mix of heritage building and new, energy-efficient construction techniques is a perfect fit for this area.

•••

Every now and then it’s good to get a reality check. That goes for everyone, including editors.

As I near the end of my first year in the big chair I have to wonder if the paper is covering the stories you want to read? Are you happy with the paper? Are there issues we are missing, or are we focusing too much on some stories? Give us your feedback at editor(at)nelsonstar.com.

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