Mission is hiring two security guards to patrol the streets from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., six days a week to move along anyone found sleeping outside a business.
The project will be reviewed by district staff after two months and at that point, council will determine whether or not there is a need to continue.
The guards will patrol N. Railway Avenue, First Avenue, and Second Avenue. The cost of the project is expected to cost close to $3,500 a month.
Mayor Randy Hawes introduced the idea for the program at a council meeting this week.
“More and more, we’re hearing from merchants who come in the mornings to open up their place, there are people sleeping in the doorways and they don’t want to move,” said Hawes. “Business doorways are not a place to sleep.”
Mission RCMP Insp. Ted De Jager noted security guards have the authority to move people off private property, but not public spaces, like the sidewalk.
If a guard calls police to help, RCMP will treat it as a priority, said De Jager, adding officers try to visit downtown in the early mornings too.
“We know there is one particular store with a large open area for the homeless to hole up in,” said the inspector.
Coun. Pam Alexis noted that same building has been the target of vandalism as well, and those sleeping in the space often leave trash behind for merchants to clean up.
Business owners The Record spoke with didn’t want to comment on the issue for fear their shops would be targeted.
Panhandlers are also getting more aggressive, said Hawes, who suggested anyone who sees such behaviour should try to discreetly take a photo of the aggressor and let police and other merchants know who to watch out for.
Hawes believes downtown is safe and wants the public perception to reflect that.
De Jager advised anyone being attacked to call 911, but he said he can count on one hand the number of calls from citizens who have actually been assaulted in the downtown core.
“For the average person, it’s very safe,” De Jager explained.
“For people in an undesirable lifestyle, it’s not.
“It doesn’t take long for us to figure out who is attacked and who did the attacking.”
Mission Downtown Business Association president Carlo Billinger said more help is needed and looks forward to making some changes.
“Hiring security is a first step to recognizing there’s a social problem which has increased as of late,” said Billinger.
The pilot project was passed unanimously by council and is expected to begin when all the pieces are in place, but a firm start date has not been determined.