Animals organize to take back cities

I’m sitting on the banks of the North Thompson River, not far from my house in Westsyde. People walk along the river, not far away, but they seldom notice me high on the river bank. I’m listening to music and not paying much attention. It’s a cool winter day and I’m wrapped in a blanket; enjoying my lunch and thermos of tea.

image: Government of Yukon

A dog wanders by, just five metres away, and I wait for the dog’s owner to follow. When no one arrives, I do a double-take and realize it’s not a dog but a lynx. The lynx doesn’t see me, or doesn’t seem to care that I’m so close.

This is the first time I’ve seen a lynx in Westsyde and I get to thinking “What’s going on?” There have been other sightings of lynx and cougars in the city, which is strange.

Then the thoughts start to swirl. These animals must be organizing to take back the cities. And they must have animal leaders: the New World Order of Animals (NWOA).

Later, I tell a friend about the sighting of the lynx and how the animals seem to be organizing. Are these animal leaders part of a New World Order of Animals? Something about them has to be special. They must be descendants of Noah’s Ark, she suggests. Yeah, that must be it.

Animals are not just retaking Kamloops, but cities and countries all around the world.

Wallabies, a smaller version of the kangaroo, are establishing themselves in the United Kingdom. Anthony Caravaggi, a lecturer in conservation biology at the University of South Wales told CBC’s Quirks & Quarks:

“The news reports are often accompanied by things like, ‘I can’t believe what I saw’ or ‘wondered what I was seeing. We do have some areas where wallabies have attained a kind of celebrity status. So they have Facebook pages, web pages, and people in some areas are not accustomed to seeing wallabies.”

The animal operation conducted by NWOA is clearer to me now.

The mainstream media is complicit in a conspiracy; saying that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China. That’s just fake news.

The New World Order of Animals released the deadly coronavirus in order to clear the way for the return of animals. True, millions of humans will die but why would animals care when humans have killed many more animals by destroying their homes?

The headquarters of NWOA, the direct descendents Noah’s Ark, are closer than you think. They are located at the Centre of the Universe.

‘And where is the Centre of the Universe?’, you might ask. It’s at Vidette Lake in Deadman Valley, just 60 kilometres NW of Kamloops.

The Centre of the Universe was first located in 1980 by the Rinpoche, or Master Teacher, located in San Francisco. He sent a white-robed disciple to Vidette Lake to find the spot. Then, in 1984, the Master Teacher himself visited the spot and confirmed that, yes; this is the Centre of the Universe.

But don’t try to find it. It’s guarded by electromagnetic waves that project the illusion of pastoral landscape.

It’s amazing what revelations are spawned by just sitting by the river.

Canada’s housing agency tries to slow the exodus from big cities

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is attempting to curb the outflow from big cities.

iamge: HuffPost Canada

Toronto saw a net loss of 50,375 last year as people moved to surrounding small cities; places such as Oshawa where the population increased by 2.1 per cent according.

Municipalities around Montreal also experienced growth with Farnham seeing an increase of 5.2 per cent.

People are migrating out of Vancouver to small Interior cities, as well. In Kamloops, home sales totalled 3,044 units last year, up 6.4 per cent from 2019. Sales were brisk with homes on the market just of 2.6 months on average, compared to 5.8 months the previous year.

The pandemic has resulted in millions of new workers from home. As of December, 2020, 4.8 million Canadians worked from home. For 2.8 million of those, working from home was a new experience.

The influx of highly successful, mid-career professionals and knowledge workers has an effect on the character and culture of a small city. On the plus side, professionals have more to spend and support the arts making small cities more vibrant. Conversely, they drive the price of houses up making them less affordable for low-income wage earners.

CMHC, a Crown Corporation responsible for affordable housing, is promoting big cities. In a two-page ad in The Walrus magazine, they point to the advantages of living in denser communities:

“CMHC is also increasingly recognizing that intensification, or creating denser communities, can play a positive role in addressing not only housing affordability but other challenges — such as access to services, health status, and climate change — that factor into where people choose to live.”

Part of the appeal in moving out of a big city, it seems, is the seemingly lower rates of COVID-19 infection. But most infections in big cities have been among those working in high contact jobs, not home-work environments. And the Kamloops region is now experiencing a spike in infections.

It might seem like commute times are less in smaller cities but Vancouver isn’t much different than Kamloops. In Vancouver, the average commute time by car was 26 minutes last year. While I don’t have averages for Kamloops, most drivers had a commute time of 15 to 29 minutes according to Statistics Canada. And fifteen per cent of Kamloops drivers had commute times longer than 30 minutes.

Big cities attract medical talent to specialized clinics, making health services superior in dense urban centres. Michel Tremblay, VP at CMHC says:  “You simply can’t offer the same level of service in smaller centres; it is just not economically justifiable,”

Everyday needs such as groceries, libraries, and community support services are not only more numerous and varied in a big city, but also easier to get to by walking, cycling, or public transit. People prefer to go on foot, which is the basis for an inherently healthy, active approach to living, CMHC argues.

Personally, I’m not convinced. Despite the disadvantages of living in small cities, Kamloops was a big draw for me when I moved to here from Calgary. I like the slower pace of life and living close to nature.

But I wonder what motivates CMHC, a housing agency, to promote big cities? Is it because they are worried about a collapse in big city housing markets where they insure the mortgages?

Prohibition of drugs was a mistake but decriminalization will not stop deaths

How many more people have to die because of a half-baked idea from a century ago?

It all started at the turn of the twentieth century when concoctions of opium were commonly found in medicine chests to treat toothaches, diarrhoea, and coughs. Before antibiotics, doctors used opium to treat diseases such as dysentery, cholera, and tuberculosis.

Many of these concoctions, such as Laudanum, were highly addictive.

laudanum ad in Sears. image: 12 tomatoes

There were two paths that governments could have taken. One would have been to control the potency and purity of opium and sell it through licensed outlets. The other was to make opium illegal.

The choice to make opium illegal was political and racist.

Prime Minister Laurier was looking for his fourth majority in a row in 1908. He heard of the “race riots” in Vancouver and sent his minister of labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to investigate.

King found resentment and anger towards Chinese workers. They had been brought to British Columbia to build the Trans Canada railway. With the railway complete and Chinese workers unemployed, white Canadians claimed that they were taking jobs away.

Also, Chinese Canadians were demonized for leading good, white Canadian women astray in “opium dens.” The Chinese were the perfect scapegoats: too many, too shady. Laurier played the race card, was returned to power, and passed the Opium Act in 1908.

The prohibition of substances, such as alcohol, has been a failure ever since.

Drug addiction is a serious problem but it is not criminal. The Opium Act placed the possession of opium in the same category of criminal acts as murder and rape.

Criminal acts are the most serious offenses against society. But drug abuse is an offence against an individual, not society. While drug pushers have bad intentions, drug users don’t intend to do anything criminal.

The state is to blame for not controlling the purity and potency of drugs made available. If not in a fit of moral outrage and attempt to control behaviour that mainly affects personal choice, governments would have made the rational choice to leave drugs legal.

The government’s impulse to control behaviour by making drug use criminal is misguided. Throwing people in jail for trying to ease their emotional or physical pain is a mistake.

So here we are a century later with these anachronistic drug laws. What are we to do?

Vancouver is asking the federal government to approve a plan to decriminalize simple possession of illicit drugs in the city. Mayor Kennedy Stewart said:

“Personal possession and use of drugs is not a criminal justice issue; it is a health issue,” said Stewart. “It is time to end the stigma around substance use, help connect more of our neighbours to health care, and save lives.”

But decriminalization does not make drugs legal. It does not guarantee the purity and potency of drugs, nor does it make them available from licensed vendors. Decriminalization simply makes the offence of drug possession less serious. The drugs are still as deadly.

It was a mistake to make drugs illegal in the first place. It’s a mistake we are living with today. This year, Kamloops has had the highest number of deaths from drug overdoses on record: double the 25 deaths recorded in 2019. And the year’s grim tally is not yet complete.

Stop using Inks Lake as a dump

A couple of weeks ago I drove to Inks Lake for the first time, expecting to have a pleasant picnic lunch by the lake. It’s a lovely drive, only one hour south of Kamloops on Lac Le Jeune Road.

Inks Lake. Photo by David Charbonneau

What I found was anything but pleasant. Debris and garbage littered the pretty little lake. Beside an abandoned car, a makeshift outhouse had been assembled. Beside the outhouse was a bucket but I didn’t have the stomach to look inside. Between the car and the roofless outhouse was a firepit heaped with refuse.

Next to that site was an abandoned trailer in one spot, and ratty camping gear left behind in another. Piles of human excrement were everywhere, flagged by toilet paper.

If you want to see what I mean, take a look at Janice LaPlante’s photos that she sent to CFJC Today. You can find them by searching the CFJC Today website for “Inks Lake.” 

LaPlante regularly walks her dogs near Inks Lake and says campers have left the area a pigsty. She told CFJC Today:

“It’s a beautiful area for walking and a great family lake for skating. I’d love to see it cleaned up.”

 LaPlante is being generous in calling them “campers,” “ignorant slobs” would be more fitting.

Inks Lake is ready for use and abuse by skaters, partiers, freeloaders, boaters, and copper miners. It might as well have a sign at the entrance saying “Dump.”

Samuel Kirk, apparently a visitor to Canada, actually liked camping at Inks Lake for free. He found it on freecampsites.net and posted a review:

“Quite beautifully located in between grassy hills and next to a lake. Very few other campers around so it was super quiet. In the morning, just before taking off, we spotted a pig roaming around. This must be the Canadian wilderness they talk about ;)”

Others like to party on the weekend. If partygoers are anything like I remember as a student, while attending SAIT in Calgary, respect for nature is probably not at the top of their minds. Getting drunk and disorderly were paramount, I now regret to admit.

While I was there, dirt bikes and quads tore up the shores of Inks Lake.

It is not just popular with motor vehicles but mountain bikers as well. The Kamloops area has been promoted as a destination for mountain biking for decades. Mountain biking enthusiast Andy Warren told Kamloops This Week in 1997: “This is my favourite place. It’s a 150-square kilometres of vastness. You can lose yourself for a day or two.”

Boaters like it as well. Doug Smith likes paddling at Inks Lake because it sits in a recessed bowl, protected from the wind. On his blog at kamloops.me, he says: “The back bays are quiet except for a few ducks dabbling in a sheltered area.”

The greatest insult to the lake was thankfully forestalled by Kamloopsians who protested the building of KGHM Ajax Mine. Owners of the mine proposed a tailings pond that would cover an area including Jacko and Inks lakes. While Ajax promised not to drain Jacko and make Inks a fishing lake, I have to wonder. The area would resemble a moonscape where not even the most ignorant or well-intentioned users would care to visit them.

Is there anyone who can save Inks Lake?

Tearing down and vandalizing statues is barbaric

Now that we are enlightened, we clearly see the errors of the past. Such is the case with every generation. Regrettably, that enlightenment doesn’t seem to distinguish systemic racism from the value of art from the past.

image by comradejaggi (Instagram) August 29

Statues are works of art. As an artist, and as someone who has studied sculpture at the University of Alberta, I am keenly aware of the hundreds of hours that go into producing a sculpture. Sculptures are particularly difficult to produce because they are made of materials durable enough for future generations to appreciate.

Also, I sit on a committee mandated by the city of Kamloops. We review applications for funding and creating public art. The job involves evaluating the application and allocating meagre funds for artists to make public works.

I’m a strong believer in public art. Art is more than decorative; it inspires and makes a statement about a place. Public art gives testimony to the vitality of a city.

Have you seen Kamloops’ largest piece of public art? It’s truly awesome. Artist Bill Frymire assembled a shimmering mosaic of 80,000 aluminum tiles on a parkade, transforming it from a grey concrete tomb into a mirage that ripples in the sun at the slightest breeze.

I imagine being on a Regina city arts committee in 1966. We’ve received an application for a statue of John A. Macdonald to be built at a park entrance. The plaque is to be placed underneath the sculpture is to read “John A. Macdonald, Father of Confederation.”

I suspect that support for the Macdonald statue would have been unanimous. Because we were not yet woke it’s unlikely we would consider how inappropriate it to be, considering Macdonald’s role in the assimilation of Indigenous people and his racist views of Asian immigrants.

The Macdonald sculpture was built in Regina, in 1967, and cast in bronze using a centuries-old lost wax technique. It has vandalized at least three times since 2012 and is now the only one of Macdonald still standing in a major Western city in Canada.

On July 19, 2020, a group of about 30 people gathered at Ryerson University in Toronto, organized by Black Lives Matter-Toronto, and defaced another Macdonald sculpture with paint. One protester said:

“Defacing the monuments and having the art display done is actually I think a really good way of showing Canada’s long-standing history of violence of both Black and Indigenous communities on these lands.”

I find the equation of violence against people equal to violence against art puzzling. And as an artist, I find the notion of defacing a sculpture in the name of art galling.

In one hundred years, enlightened citizens will reflect on our backward ways. What we now regard as enlightened will then be seen as retrograde.

Perhaps one of our stupid ways, as seen through the lens of future woke generations, will be the way we treat animals raised for slaughter. Will they then vandalize the handsome bronze sculpture of a bull by Joe Fafard that sits at the entrance of Riverside Park in Kamloops?

Our perceived virtues are ephemeral, ever drifting into sin as seen by future generations. Art meant to last millennia should not be a victim latest expression of self-righteous barbarism.

Fears of out-of-town workers spreading COVID-19 in Kamloops are unfounded

Some Kamloopsians worry that the 50 pipeline workers from out of town will bring the Cov2 virus into our community. That number of workers will swell to 600 by August.

Pipe stored in Kamloops. image: National Post

The Site C dam site serves as an example. After concerns were raised in March, several workers went into self-isolation. Even though none of the workers had been tested positive at the time, people in the closest town of Fort St. John worried that the hospital would be inundated. Town councillor Trevor Bolin said the site should be shut down and added:

“If there was an outbreak at Site C, our hospital would be inundated with patients that we could not handle, that our health system couldn’t handle, with the seven ventilators that we have in the community.”

Months later, one case of COVID-19 has been recently indentified at Site C. That person has been isolated before having contact with other workers. Just one case. Fort St. John’s hospital has not been inundated.

No COVID-19 cases have been indentified in Kamloops pipeline workers, despite ongoing work in preparation of the new pipeline near Ord road. This month, crews will start to pull the new pipeline under the Thompson River.

Last weekend saw a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the interior of B.C. So why hasn’t the presence of 50 pipeline workers not resulted in an outbreak in Kamloops?

The answer is precautions. It is not in Trans Mountain’s best interests to have a skilled, expensive workforce out of commission.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Trans Mountain delayed construction in Kamloops for two months to ensure its pandemic safety measures were in place, including temperature checks (Kamloops This Week, June 2, 2020).

In addition, Trans Mountain will implement precautions such as one person per hotel room, spacing for dining, extra cleaning requirements and maintaining spacing during transport to worksites.

The economic benefits to Kamloops are substantial. Seventeen hotels and motels in Kamloops will accommodate Trans Mountain’s workforce. Construction spending in the Kamloops area is expected to be more than $450 million over the next two years. The workforce will spend an estimated $40 million for goods and services at local businesses.

There is no room for complacency when dealing with Cov2. Contagion is an obvious risk with this virus. Kelowna’s experience is a cautionary tale. On the Canada Day weekend an advisory for downtown Kelowna was posted after eight people had tested positive following two house parties involving visitors from other parts of B.C. That number quickly grew to 13 on July 13, then to 35, and now to 60 plus.

According to reports, those parties were not wild free-for-alls like some Texas bar scene.  The parties were mostly done with the right intent with the numbers were kept small. The mistake they made was not the high numbers at any one time but that there were different people every night.

The fact that there are no COVID-19 cases in pipeline workers in Kamloops is no accident. With careful precautions, Kamloops can economically benefit without a COVID-19 outbreak from the workers.

What will cause an outbreak is the assembly of large numbers of people who blissfully don’t practice good pandemic hygiene.

Can B.C. dodge eye-watering, throat-choking wildfires this summer?

Remember last summer when we rubbed shoulders at concerts and live theatre; cheek-to-jowl at our favourite restaurants and watering holes? Remember when we mingled in crowds at Music in the Park, Ribfest, and Hot Nite in the City –outside?

Image: New York Times

Then think of the wildfires of 2017 and 2018, when we huddled indoors, trying to escape the smoke that hung over Kamloops like a grey shroud seeping into every crevice of our homes.

I remember the wildfires of 2017. The skies were clear when I left Merritt after spending a few days camping nearby. I could see a wall of smoke as I approached Kamloops. When I entered it, my eyes began to water and my throat was irritated. Kamloops was right in the path of the Elephant Hill wildfire burning west of the city near Ashcroft. It was like a funnel directed by the prevailing winds right at Kamloops.

The Elephant Hill wildfire was the largest and most destructive wildfires in B.C.’s history. Then came the wildfires of 2018 which was even worse when an area 44 times that of Kamloops kilometres burned. There was no escaping the smoke that year. The province was blanketed with smoke.

The outlook for last year looked bad. Experts forecast more of the same because of a build-up of combustibles on the forest floor. But contrary to predictions, 2019 turned out to be wonderful.

Again this for this summer, the forecast appeared bad. Now I’m holding my breath, hoping the forecast is not true. Things look promising with long-range forecasts for the remainder of July being relatively cool and damp according to theweathernetwork.com.

And the Meteorological Service of Canada predicts the same:

“Summer is currently on hiatus it would seem. It will ‘return’ (was it ever here?) at some point in the future. Certainly today and looking into next week even, we are not seeing any signal, or sign that the weather will significantly change. Normally, by this time in the annual calendar, we would have seen one, perhaps two, dominant ridges of high pressure. This would have brought about long stretches of hot, dry weather (July 10, 2020.”

To lament the absence of a summer with hot, dry weather displays poor memory of what those tinder-dry conditions can bring. Cool, damp weather needs to be celebrated.

The isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic had us huddling indoors earlier in the spring but at least now we can go outdoors and enjoy nature’s beauty, albeit with physical isolation.

It would be unbearable if we were physically isolated by the pandemic and driven indoors by wildfire smoke.

Every week of relatively cool, damp weather is one week less of the potential wildfire season. Bring it on.

Kamloops has a reputation of delivering hot, dry summer days. That’s something I enjoy. But I would like to see Kamloops promoted as a place where you can safely breathe in the summer.

And next year, when the pandemic hopefully abates, my wish is that we can crowd together to and enjoy each other’s company in the smoke-free air as we did last year and with a bit of luck, this year as well.

 

Kamloops BLM demonstration offficially cancelled due to intimidation

The Black Lives Matter demonstration in Kamloops on June 4 was well-attended considering that it was officially cancelled just before it was about to start.

image: Kamloops This Week, Dave Eagles

The organizers were apologetic about organizing it in the first place. In their notice of cancelation, they said on Instagram:

“We want BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) to lead these protests. The original idea was to create a space for people to express their feelings of injustice and for us to be able to be there to protect the BIPOC in this space. The goal of this protest was to open conversation and change for local and international individuals. The goal of our organizers and all non-BIPOC is to create a safe space for them. We do not want to speak over them, we want to amplify them.”

Since they refer to Black, Indigenous and People of Colour as “them,” I can only assume they are white and that was a factor in the cancelation.

Being white, I guess they felt uncomfortable about organizing a demonstration for an oppressed people that they were not a part of. Or perhaps it seemed patronizing –as if Black, Indigenous and People of Colour couldn’t do it themselves.

Maybe they felt they were appropriating the culture Black, Indigenous and People of Colour by assuming to speak for them.

It’s paralysis due to political correctness.

I would have liked to ask the organizers these questions and why they felt intimidated but they have pulled down their Instagram account and I had no way of contacting them.

Allegations of cultural appropriation and insensitivity are rampant. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the Ottawa BLM demonstration, calls of “blackface” could be heard directed at him; in reference to his now-shameful 2001 yearbook photo of him dressed as Aladdin in blackface and in a turban at an Arabian Nights-themed gala. Dressing up in costumes that represent other cultures is now seen as cultural appropriation.

Is it cultural approbation to show up at a demonstration in support of Black and Indigenous people? Can white Canadians not “feel their pain?”

Cultural appropriation was on the mind of Kamloops resident Sarah* who attended the demonstration. “I try to be very mindful of cultural appropriation as well,” she told me by email.

Her Facebook photo shows her smiling in front of three RCMP of colour at the demonstration. She was hesitant about asking permission for the photo but:  “They were good sports and took no issue.”

The colour of a people organizing a demonstration should not be a factor.

We are long past the biases developed by Europeans when they first encountered various colours of people around the globe and thought they were a different species.

As I have argued in this column, we are all Homo sapiens, the last remaining species of humans. There is no “them” and “us.”

Says Sarah of her photo with the police:

“I hope you took note of the ‘We are All African’ T-shirt I was wearing…as in we can all be traced back to a common humanoid ancestor in the rift valley…this is why Racism makes zero sense! Love that message, that t-shirt!”

*name changed on request.

Kamloops’ rental shortage is no accident

The shortage of affordable rental units in Kamloops is the result of deliberate government policy starting with the Mulroney Conservatives in the 1990s. Not just Kamloops but all Canada was affected.

CSI low-income housing in Kamloops

Governments stopped investment in affordable rental units for a number of reasons: strong wage growth from 1996 to 2006 coupled with declining interest rates and modest housing prices enticed more renters into home ownership.

But by the mid-2000s, stagnant wages and the growth of low paying jobs along with escalating housing prices pushed people into rentals.

Now the federal Liberals in cooperation with the B.C. government and CMHC have reversed that trend with an investment in affordable housing.

Our society, the Centre for Seniors Information in Kamloops, is one of the city’s non-profits involved in the construction of affordable housing (I am the president of the society). We are building a five story apartment with112 units, ranging from studio-sized, to two bedrooms on the site of the old Cineplex Odeon theatre on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Victoria Street.

Judging by the response that our housing manager is getting, the building could be full when it opens its doors in just over a year.

The drought in affordable housing has had a devastating effect on low and middle wage-earners.

Canada’s five most common occupations are low-paid and often not full-time. (admin assistants, retail salespersons, cashiers, food and kitchen helpers, food and beverage servers) representing 1.8 million workers or 12% of all jobs,

According to calculations done by David MacDonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, wages don’t pay the rent any more. He has come up with a measure of how much wages are short, something he calls the “rental wage.”

He defines the rental wage as the amount you would have to earn so that no more than 30 per cent of your wages goes to rent. In Kamloops, the rental wage is $25 an hour for a two-bedroom apartment. That would leave a reasonable remainder of 70 per cent for groceries, medicine, clothing, fuel, etc.

Another way of measuring rent is by the number of hours you would have to work at a minimum wage of $12.65. In Kamloops, you would have to work 78 hours a week to pay for an affordable two-bedroom apartment.

I suspect that many Kamloopsians are doing without essentials because they pay more than 30 per cent of income for rent.

Between 1980 and 1993, 49% of all rentals built were affordable. Federal tax incentives and loan programs to private investors also played a pivotal role in apartment rental construction over that period.

Now, new federal programs plan to deliver more than 110,500 new units by 2027-28. Combined with other provincial and federal programs, 15,100 and new affordable units were committed in 2017-18 and 16,600 in 2018-19; almost as many as from 1970 and the early 1990s before the cuts.

Canadians desperately need affordable rentals. One-third of Canada’s 14 million households rent their homes.

Without deliberate government policy, private investors can’t deliver the housing needed.

Everybody wins. Mortgages are given specifically for low income rentals, developers build the units and employ trades people, people can afford rent with money left over, and non-profits like ours take ownership of the buildings to generate much needed revenue.

Kamloops needs a homeless sleep centre

Kamloops agencies care for the spiritual and physical needs of our homeless: faith, food, warmth in the winter, air conditioning in the summer.

credit :SeanShot. Getty Images

However, there is no place to get a decent sleep.

Accommodating the sleep needs of the homeless is often regarded as a “nice to have” feature. But sleeplessness can reduce the immune system, put people at greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The homeless are disproportionately affected. Almost one half suffer from insomnia.

Sleeplessness affects more than the physical health of the homeless. They already suffer from anxiety because of their precarious lifestyle. Mental illness further compounds anxiety. Sleeplessness adds to that.

Insufficient sleep impairs the mind, hampering decision making, memory, and mood. A recent study found that adults who stayed awake for just one twenty-four-hour period had an anxiety response 30 percent stronger than others who were allowed to sleep (Walrus, December, 2019).

Shelter staff and volunteers experience first-hand the frustration and aggression of the homeless resulting from exhaustion. Shelters are not designed to provide long, flexible hours of sleep.

Sleeping on park benches, doorways, and bus shelters is frowned on. Municipalities install “hostile” architectural elements, such as tilted benches and street spikes, which are intentionally designed to prevent people from lying down.

Social stigma and aggression from passersby can worsen the situation for anyone trying to find rest in a bus shelter or on a park bench.

I find public sleeping disturbing, except in certain circumstances such as at the beach or on a blanket in a park where a picnic is obvious. When I see someone sleeping on a sidewalk, I have mixed feelings of sympathy and offense at the encounter of an unconscious body.

Social norms determine when, where, and with whom people should sleep. Those norms are spelled out in shelter rules, loitering regulations, and policing practice. That leaves street people socially ostracized.

Street people often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to get some sleep. But alcohol and drugs operate in a negative feedback loop. They provide the illusion of inducing rest but actually disturb sleep, leaving people more tired, more likely to feel pain, and more inclined to self-medicate.

Restaurants have varying policies regarding sleeping. The ones that I go to on the (North) Shore allow sleeping. I won’t name them because I don’t want to infer official policy. I often see a transient young person with their head down on the table, asleep. Somehow, I feel more protective of young people so obviously sleep deprived –perhaps for the same reason I feel protective of children or because I, too, have hitchhiked globally and experienced “rough sleeping,” as the Brits put it.

A good sleep for the homeless is not a trivial problem. The median cost of each homeless person to Canadian society is $55,000 per year and half of that goes to health care, more to policing and social services. In Kamloops, that amounts to $10 million for the approximate 180 homeless people here.

A good night’s sleep for the homeless would cut health and policing costs, reduce the wear-and-tear on shelter staff and volunteers, remove disturbing bodies from our streets and give the homeless what we all wish for ourselves –peaceful slumber.