Provincial, federal help needed to address homeless, repeated vandalism on BC Fairgrounds: Councilor IG News

IG News Updates,

For more than seven decades, the annual Salmon Arm Fair has brought joy to residents and tourists of BC’s Shuswap area with its wide variety of rides, animal shows, and more.

But it hasn’t been fun recently for fair coordinator Jim McEwan, who had to repair damaged facilities after a three-day fair that ended on September 11.

“The saddest part is this senseless vandalism — it’s broken doors, broken windows, broken boards, a lot of tagging graffiti,” he told CBC. dawn south Host Chris Walker on Wednesday.

McEwan says the southern interior fairgrounds have been vandalized for years, costing its non-profit operator Salmon Arm and the Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association thousands of dollars — to replace damaged security fences, install security cameras, and provide security. To appoint guards.

While some vandalism happened during the fair, McEwan says most of it happened throughout the year, particularly during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the fair was canceled due to provincial health restrictions.

They claim that the homeless and people living with addictions have entered the fairgrounds to sleep.

“Usually by the time security arrives at the site, the perpetrators are gone and the damage has been done,” he said.

A chainlink fence with a clearly visible hole.
A wire fence pictured here surrounds the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds, which has been cut by vandals, according to fair co-ordinator Jim McEwan. (Submitted by Jim McEwan)

city ​​of salmon arm Estimate There are 50 to 60 people living homeless in the municipality, many of whom experience mental health challenges.

According to the city, there are 46 emergency shelter beds in the community for people experiencing mental health challenges. Data from BC Housing shows There are over 250 off-market housing units in the salmon arm.

Sylvia Lindgren, the city’s representative on the board of the Counting Agriculture Association, says the city, Mounties and fire departments have been holding monthly meetings with nonprofits since the fall of 2020, as they discussed break-ins and vandalism at fairgrounds. has seen an increase. during the pandemic.

Lindgren says the city council has worked hard to get basement suites approved as rental units to address housing supply issues, but at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the province and the federal government to ensure that They try long term to fix them.

“We know that mental health and addiction are on the rise across the province. Homelessness is greater than ever.

“It’s a provincial and federal mandate, and it’s really important that municipalities and councils continue to partner with their provincial and federal counterparts and try to find real solutions that work over the long haul,” she said. .

Meanwhile, McEwan says the association has no plans to increase the annual fair’s entrance fee—$11 for adults, for example—to help cover the cost of repairs, and ask neighbors in the area to help cover the cost of the fair. To monitor and report vandalism on the grounds. police.

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