Instead of taking shopping carts away, give them away

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
September 13, 2017 - 5:25pm Updated: September 14, 2017 - 5:22am

KAMLOOPS — Instead of taking sides in the shopping cart debate, why don’t we come up with a solution that will make everyone winners?

In case you haven’t heard, Kamloops RCMP are seizing wayward shopping carts — 33 of them so far — and returning them to the merchants who own them.

To the homeless, shopping carts are like rolling clothes closets, often containing all their worldly goods and necessities. But that costs merchants money, so what to do?

Let’s first ask ourselves what good is done to society by taking shopping carts away from the homeless. Is making life even more comfortable for them a benefit to anyone?

Instead of being judgmental, let’s be logical and compassionate. This is a cause waiting to happen for some community social-welfare society. Instead of taking shopping carts away, why not give them away?

When one well-known homeless fellow started worrying about having his shopping cart confiscated, a couple of thousand dollars was raised in no time at all to buy him his own cart. And it’s not going to be any old cart — it will be custom made.

So why not create a project to do that for other homeless folks? How about if social agencies partner with merchants to provide carts for the homeless?

Then, instead of carts being stolen, only to be abandoned later or to clutter up doorways, the homeless could take pride in ownership, have life a little easier, and not have to worry about the long arm of the law snatching them away.

Kamloops isn’t the first city to struggle with the shopping cart issue. In Kelowna last year, a team of engineering students went to work designing shopping carts equipped with lights, locks, GPS and a battery charger. They got input from police, a church, the City and the homeless themselves.

Instead of just dumping stuff into the carts or hanging plastic bags full of clothes off the sides, the idea was that these carts would be secure and easy to organize. The battery would recharge as the cart was on the move.

They call it “a personal belongings cart.” I don’t know how the project has been going but a prototype was supposed to be rolled out this year or maybe next.

In Victoria, somebody even designed a shopping-cart sized tiny house. It’s seen as a potential partial answer to a shortage of shelter for the homeless, some of whom prefer to stay on the street anyway.

There are better ways of doing things than getting police involved. Kamloops could grab hold of the issue and push to find its own solution, instead of setting up a confrontation.

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