Vagrancy issue a tough one for town council

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman had a few remarks last week on the issue of vagrancy in town. Mainly it was a litany of the various obstacles to efforts to do anything to improve the situation and how frustrating it is.

“We’re not making a lot of headway,” he said at Slave Lake town council’s July 14 meeting.

One problem – or perceived problem – is the unwillingness of the courts to do much when charges have been laid and people end up in court. Warman said he had tried to talk to a judge about it but only got as far as a crown prosecutor, who told him, “they won’t be participating in any of our discussions.” The reasoning, Warman said, has something to do with the court’s need to be (and probably to appear to be) impartial.

So not much help there in the way of deterrence. Otherwise, Warman said, there are programs available to help people with their addictions and mental health issues. But they can’t be forced to make use of these programs. The courts could force them, but as noted, the courts are not inclined to do much about the minor offenses entailed in vagrancy.

Warman noted that a lot of the so-called homeless people of Slave Lake (who may or may not actually be homeless) are from other communities.

“Councillor Joy McGregor, weighing in, said, “They should go home.”

Ditto, echoed the mayor. “Enough is enough.”

Enough may be enough, but there is no obvious way forward on what Warman admits is “a complex issue.”

Funding, such as it is, goes to the cities, Warman continued.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Having said that, he proposed an approach to the MLA, and requesting a meeting with the minister. Warman made it official by making a motion to “request a meeting with the MLA to discuss ongoing provincial issues.”

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