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Mixed reaction from business owners, visitors over loitering

TRURO – Shelley Austin has witnessed an interesting scene she hopes she won’t see again.

“There was a guy on a bench for three hours” last week, Austin, owner of Sea Shell Design on Inglis Place, told the Truro Daily News.

“Right across the street from here. He was sleeping and falling off. I was thinking, ‘that looks awful,’” said Austin, who said loitering is “definitely an issue” in the downtown.

“People hang out all day. It makes you nervous,” said Austin, who has had her business in downtown Truro for 17 years and has no intention of relocating.

She added it may be difficult to correct the situation because it’s hard to “tell the difference between loitering all day and who is just hanging out.”

The Town of Truro has a “public places” bylaw, which states loitering means “to stand idly around or move slowly about or to linger or spend time idly or to impede the passage of other persons.”

The bylaw indicates the penalty is punishable by a fine of “not less than $50 and not more than $1,000 and to imprisonment of not more than 30 days in default of payment.”

Truro’s Samantha Dowe visits the downtown “everyday” but she doesn’t consider it loitering.

“I don’t see how it’s loitering … I’m buying coffee, sitting and socializing. I’m here a couple of hours every day but I’m moving around and not sitting in front of one place.

“I’m not picking fights or breaking windows,” said Dowe.

The Truro Daily News randomly visited the downtown a number of times over a few days but did not witness obvious “loitering” as defined by the bylaw, during those outings. As we spoke with a number of people, opinions continued to vary.

Moments Boutique owner Sharon Geldart said she sees “very little” loitering.

“It’s very safe here and it’s a welcoming and vibrant downtown,” Geldart said.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous but admits to working downtown near Tim Hortons, said if loitering is an issue, it’s not a major concern.

“It’s probably an issue but I’m in the store most of the day. The odd customer will talk about it once in a while but I don’t see it in front of the store.”

Alma Zalo disagrees. She said there “are a lot of people who like to hang around … sometimes it’s excessive and sometimes they are just shopping but I’ve seen fights. At nights I’m nervous but I (just) try to avoid the wrong crowd.”

Being aware of your surroundings seems to be the message other customers embrace.

“There are bikers and skateboarders near Tim Hortons and it’s intimidating at times,” said one woman, who remained anonymous. “They are just standing there and you have to go around them, five or six people at a time. I avoid it by crossing the street but I’m sure there are some people, a small percentage, who stay away.”

Another resident, Gail Rusthon of Bible Hill, however, said, “I go to Tim Hortons often and I don’t think loitering is a problem, but maybe I’m not coming when it’s happening.”

Truro Police Service’s deputy Jim Flemming said the department doesn’t get “a whole lot” of calls regarding loitering.

“Maybe once a week,” he said, adding it’s difficult to define who is loitering and who isn’t.

mchiasson@trurodaily.com

Twitter: tdnMonique

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Organizations: Truro Daily News, Sea Shell Design on Inglis Place, Tim Hortons Truro Police Service

Geographic location: Truro

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Recent comments

  • Maureen
    July 22, 2014 - 10:56

    I often shop downtown Truro while visiting family in Truro. Never encountered a problem with people loitering. It is unfortunate this is making news. Shame on someone for being on a bench for (3) hours... this lady needs some REAL problems in her life. Certainly will not help her business!

  • Anon
    July 21, 2014 - 18:18

    Just because you have a Shop on Inglis Place doesn't mean you own the street nor is it any of your business who is on the street! Loiterers are people the same as shoppers, and you are right you can't tell the difference..nor should you try to. Do you want each person questioned as they enter the street to see what their intentions are? Rediculous! Inglis Place is a public street for people who may want to just hang out, perhaps spend money, perhaps not, etc. Just because they are not looking at your rack of overpriced dresses, doesn't mean they shouldn't be there. BTW...the guy on the bench is way more important than your dresses!

  • Aurora
    July 20, 2014 - 19:56

    I can't believe this woman had nothing better to say than "it looks awful" about a person who was sleeping on a bench and falling off. I had to read the paragraph twice to make sure I wasn't misreading the quote. You know, I bet it felt pretty darn awful to him. Enough money was spent on 'pretty bricks' for Inglis street – too bad some of that funding wasn't diverted to sensitivity training for Inglis Place shop owners.

  • Sandra
    July 19, 2014 - 16:01

    I am appalled. There are many homeless people in this town and I see nothing being done by the town to remedy this. Shelly, you need to check your attitude. MOST are not as "privileged" as you are. You sound ignorant and judgemental and I for one will think twice before I return to your extremely over priced for pretty junk store again.

  • PJ
    July 19, 2014 - 12:13

    What bothers me more is the elimination of parking on Inglis (already a problem) to expand a private business onto public property.

  • Anon
    July 19, 2014 - 08:52

    Intimidated by skateboarders and bikers? Are we talking bikers like the ones who wear leather coats with wings on the back or are we talking bicyclers who spend time at the downtown skatepark? I've yet to find bicyclers intimidating, get over yourselves Truro, it may not look like the greatest when there's a gaggle of teenagers outside your store, but hey, at least they are outside and socializing instead of at one of their houses or in a back alley doing drugs. This is Truro, it's a damn retirement town and all the retired folks don't seem to like to see teenagers downtown. There's a massive high school right around the corner and they get free periods, so they go downtown for something to do. Also, I find it sad that people don't like seeing someone sleeping on a bench because it's an eyesore. I've slept on that exact bench. Guess what happened to me? The cops woke me up by KICKING me and telling me to go to Tim Horton's. This was before there was any outreach for the homeless of Truro. That's right, there's homeless people here, folks. It's a harsh reality, but that's life. I used to be one of them.

  • puzzled panther
    July 19, 2014 - 08:16

    Had a few conversations about this to many of my friends and all agree that it isn't the "loiterers" that will stop us from coming into your store (as we often do), it is you, lady. If people aren't spending enough money at your store, you can't just have them removed! Maybe it is time to pay a little attention to your business plan because I can definitely forecast a decline in your sales of overpriced trinkets.. Do you realize how ridiculous you look? What were you even thinking??

  • Get a Life
    July 19, 2014 - 06:35

    I find it funny that she can block the sidewalk with racks of clothes, creating a barricade of women looking at dresses. Which forces me to go on the street to get past it. But is TDN doing an article on the dangers of that? Nope, they start a debate about loitering because this lady didn't like someone sitting on a bench. Ridiculous.

  • Charles
    July 19, 2014 - 05:50

    I stopped shopping in downtown truro years ago. It looks like the attitudes haven't changed. Name one thing worth going to downtown truro for? It's not convenient parking. It's not pricing. It's not attitude. The last time i was in downtown truro looking for clothing for my child for back to school. I was scrutinized like a vagrant when we went into shops. I ended up going to Halifax and saved 100"s of dollars was looked upon as a customer not someone who wasn't dressed properly so i could not possibly afford their wares. shame on you truro

  • Pat
    July 18, 2014 - 20:19

    Its too bad that business and making money sometimes comes before compassion for others. Apparently the person on this bench in no way was bothering the customers at Seashell Design..but...."It just looked awful!!!!....and she hoped she never sees anything like that again" She has been way too sheltered I would say!!!What a shame she had to witness that!! Maybe if she had some customers she wouldn't have three hours to watch an individual in obvious distress! . I will tell you what is awful...that in three hours she didn't bother to leave her "store" and go to him to see if she could assist in some way....or get some help for him..Shame on her!! If that's all she has to complain about she has lost touch with reality.. She may be a bit lonely in her store now, as some customers (maybe even some loiterers with money) may not come spend money in her store again.....after reading this...I for one...won't be. What has become of care and human compassion in this town?

  • Mark
    July 18, 2014 - 12:04

    Sure.... lets make it even less appealing to people who want to go downtown. It's not like any small businesses/shops there have had to shut down have they??

  • Cheryl Paris
    July 18, 2014 - 08:41

    Yes, Shelley Austin, it does look awful. But not for the reasons you think. It looks awful because it may have been the only place that man could lay his head down safely in god knows how long. I wonder if you've considered making a donation to the Truro Homeless Outreach Society instead of being concerned with how the homeless of Truro are affecting your business location.

    • Christine
      July 19, 2014 - 18:26

      I think its a sin that we are being slammed for spending time downtown. I personally spend quite a bit of time, (not to mention money) downtown! I also spend hours a week downtown trying to socialize my dog who is a rescue. Take away our rights to spend time where we want, for as long as we want to be there? Truro is turning into (and has been for years) a place where no young person wants to live, and if you have grown up here... where nobody wants to stay. And business owners and common folk with opinions like this lady do not make the situation any better!

  • dave
    July 18, 2014 - 08:40

    truro , is the dumbest place , everyone laughs, about it , do not smoke on the street, do not sit here, do not chew gum, and on and on, truro just relax , and see how lucky you are , theres hardly no crime,thats why every cop wants to work there, glad your not in halifaxor any big city,enjoy your retirement town.

  • David Edwards
    July 17, 2014 - 23:23

    Some people who rent an apartment think they own the whole building. I guess some people who rent or own a store think they own the whole street. I would say Shelly Austin needs to get a life or get busy in the store.

  • Jeff Johnston
    July 17, 2014 - 18:51

    It's people's right to be out in public . We also have freedom of assembly . These bi-laws are illegal and violate the charter of rights and freedoms and our constitution .

  • Salamander
    July 17, 2014 - 17:48

    As a Canadian citizen, I have a right to be in a public place so long as I am peaceful. How dare anyone tell other Canadians they can't enjoy public spaces! More to the point, I think the downtown should be a place people WANT to "hang out" and just be. The point of public space like Inglis St. is to get people out & about on foot. Just because they aren't spending money doesn't mean they have no business being out in public. If people feel intimidated by a group of young people outside a coffee shop, they need to maybe check their prejudices. The mere act of existing in public is not a crime, and it's awful to think ill of someone just because they are in some stereotyped group (be it age, race, religion, language, etc.)