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BC Attorney General, Cranbrook city council seek meeting on housing supports, crime

A provincial cabinet minster is offering to meet with Cranbrook city council to discuss community concerns over rising petty crime and supports for the area’s increasing vulnerable population.
Attorney General David Eby. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A provincial cabinet minster is offering to meet with Cranbrook city council to discuss community concerns over rising petty crime and supports for the area’s increasing vulnerable population.

Attorney General David Eby, also the minister responsible for housing, extended the olive branch following an escalating war of words with Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, who has criticized Eby and BC Housing for not providing more long-termresources and permanent housing solutions in response to the city’s rising homeless residents or those at-risk of homelessness.

In a letter attached to Monday’s city council agenda package, Eby made the offer to meet with mayor and council in the near future, while also responding to recent comments made by Pratt — and reported by local media — regarding a conversation between the two officials in February.

That conversation occurred following a gathering of local elected officials and business owners in late January to begin a community dialogue on issues such as rising theft and petty crime.

READ: Cranbrook businesses vent frustration with rise in crime

“My hope was that our February call would open an avenue for communication and provincial/municipal cooperation on the obvious issue your community faces with homelessness, street disorder associated with mental health and addiction issues, and property crime,” Eby wrote.

“Now seeing the Mayor’s summary of what I had previously thought was a constructive conversation indicates that I may have been too optimistic in my hope, expressed during the call, that we could set aside our ‘different political traditions’ to work on this challenge which in my opinion transcends political partisanship and surely requires cooperation and mutual trust to identify solutions.

“I presented several options to the Mayor to advance this discussion and potential work during the call, options which he unfortunately appears to have badly misrepresented if the quotes attributed to him in the press are accurate. As a result, I would like to offer the opportunity to present directly to Council so that you may hear from me directly and accurately about my hope that the Province can work with you and your staff, as we are with many other cities across the province, to respond to the challenges you are facing.”

As Mayor Pratt was absent, Councillor Norma Blissett requested the letter be read out into the record, and also spearheaded a motion that Eby appear at an open and public city council meeting at mutual earliest convenience.

Councillor Ron Popoff concurred, and expressed interest in what Eby further noted were “current and upcoming opportunities for Cranbrook to work with the Province and other partners to take positive action for the betterment of everyone in the community.”

“I, too, would like to know what the Minister referenced in his email that talks about substantial investment in Cranbrook in the next one to five years given that we really have not seen a lot of the Minister’s portfolio being exercised here,” Popoff said.

The city’s vulnerable population intersects a spectrum of issues surrounding housing affordability, substance use, mental health, while local police also grapple with the challenges of repeat offenders getting entangled in the legal system.

In recent weeks, two town halls have been held to raise awareness on the issues.

The first one, which focused on businesses owners experiencing rising theft and vandalism and the challenges faced by local elected officials to get more resources, was held in February.

A second town hall held in March at the College of the Rockies featured local social services advocates and an RCMP representative discussing the challenges of stigma surrounding the city’s vulnerable population and the need to work together to find solutions for a safer and healthier community.

READ: Cranbrook Chamber hosts second town hall on crime, homelessness

A homeless shelter is currently in development for a property at 209 16th Ave. N, which includes 40 proposed sleeping pods that would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The facility would provide temporary housing and meals, laundry, and storage for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

It will be operated by Community Connections Society of Southeast B.C. and funded by BC Housing.

The Travelodge, a former motel located on Cranbrook St. N, is currently being utilized as a temporary homeless shelter with 40 beds, which is being operated by BC Housing and Community Connections.

It will be in use until the new shelter location is open, following design and completion of necessary renovations.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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