Comment: Local businesses bear brunt of social problems

A commentary by the president of Splashes Bath and Kitchen on Hillside Avenue, between Douglas and Blanshard streets.

Yesterday, an individual stumbled off the street into our retail store and, ignoring the repeated requests of our staff, pushed past our COVID-19 protocol barrier, located a display toilet, and relieved himself. A number two, not a number one.

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At first this might seem comical, perhaps ironic, when readers learn that our store is one that displays and sells bathroom fixtures. Yes, a number two is our business.

Now think about the horror felt by our staff and customers who witnessed this.

We have had young children use a display toilet or two over the years, but this is the first incident of this nature that I can recall.

It was the latest in an increasingly frequent series of issues our business is dealing with on a regular basis.

Feces have been found at various spots on our property. In another unpleasant incident, a woman spread her own feces on our building after defecating into her hand.

Add to that the ongoing vandalism, theft, graffiti, and required clean-up of discarded drug and sex trade paraphernalia that all businesses in our area face frequently.

We all understand the city has a homelessness issue. To establish viable solutions, this problem requires real leadership.

At both the municipal and the provincial level, I see no such leadership.

Today the strategy is to buy motels and hotels to house individuals struggling with homelessness. For our property, and that of our neighbours in the Burnside Gorge community, this strategy has led to a dramatic change in the frequency of the above-mentioned property-related concerns.

I have recently thought that the Holiday Court Motel, which sat on our site previously, would have certainly now been on the purchase list for either the City of Victoria or the province.

Perhaps these motel purchases are a sustainable piece of the homelessness strategy, but missing is the support and action to properly address addiction and mental health issues.

These subjects can be uncomfortable to discuss, similar to the act of cleaning feces out of a dry, non-plumbed display toilet.

Proposing solutions to addiction and mental health which are long-lasting and beneficial to the community as a whole are also politically unfriendly. Again, these solutions require real leadership, capable of looking beyond the next election.

For 128 years, our business has operated in Victoria. We are a family- and employee-owned company, with ongoing belief in the strength of our city and community.

We have returned our support to the community continuously through various challenging times: World wars, recessions, a depression, and now another pandemic.

We will continue the support of our community, in the hopes sustainable, community focused solutions to homelessness, addiction, and mental health will be realized.

We will also do what is necessary to ensure the safety and protection of our staff, customers, and property.

Once again, the cost to do so will be borne by private business, the same group being the largest contributor to the municipal tax base, often without a vote toward determining real leadership.

I think the business community and commercial property owners would agree it is time we had the ability to vote.

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