Truro town council is facing a slippery slope debating how to deal with loitering in the downtown.
Posted on nearly every shop window is a sign suggesting no one loiter in the area. However, at the same time, there are inviting benches and landscaping seemingly designed for sitting, giving people a place to stop and cool their feet.
The topic of how to determine who can be, and cannot be, on certain streets was broached at a recent town council meeting. In an email to council, a concerned citizen expressed their displeasure about “undesirable” people in the downtown.
Coun. Raymond Tynes wondered who would be tasked with judging people to make that determination and also, who would enforce it.
The term undesirable conjures a number of images. Some could consider homeless people sitting on a sidewalk undesirable, as they seek the safety of a busy street rather than hiding in shadows. Or is it someone who is dressed a bit rough, having just finished a long, labourous workday who chose to spend time enjoying a coffee with friends on the street?
There is no doubt that it can be intimidating walking past groups of people who by virtue of being there are blocking entrances and diverting foot traffic.
But when it comes to judging people in general, it violates human rights and quickly becomes a fight for social justice.
It is a very fine line to cross. Who is welcome to stay and take in the downtown hospitality and who should keep on walking?
Causing a disturbance is very different than people relaxing or taking in the view while enjoying the surroundings, which have been painstakingly redesigned, beautified and upgraded in recent years.
Behavioural issues can be addressed by police, who are routinely patrolling the area.
Perhaps it is time a roundtable community discussion should be held to address the issue involving police, merchants, residents and people who frequent the area.
Sometimes sharing concerns leads to a positive solution.