DAWSON CREEK, BC -- Hundreds of Dawson Creek residents came out to a town hall last night to discuss drug use, homelessness, and crime.

Mercer Hall at the Ovintiv Events Centre was packed, and discussion got emotional at times.

“Most people expressed sympathy and empathy for those struggling with homelessness, mental illness, drug addiction,” says Jerimy Earl, a Dawson Creek City Councillor. “But I got a sense of what you might call ‘compassion fatigue’ – they want to feel safe in their community and their neighbourhood, and that’s a perfectly fair thing to insist upon.”

The event was hosted by the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce. It featured downtown business owners saying they are fed up with an increase in crime, as well as homelessness and drug use in their neighbourhoods.

RCMP officers, representatives from Northern Health, and city councillors, including acting Mayor Darcy Dober, were in attendance to hear people’s thoughts. A number of speakers took the panel to task.

Harm reduction facilities were a concern as well, such as Dawson Creek’s SNOW House and the proposed North Wind addiction recovery facility in Pouce Coupe.

James Wall, who is running for Pouce Coupe council, says there has been unclear communication from Northern Health, the BC Housing, and the RCMP regarding the facilities, as well as local crime statistics. He says that lack of communication has fed rumours, fear, and judgement from the community.

“We need to realize that the problem is some drug users are criminals, and some criminals are drug users, but those are, at the end of the day, two separate concerns,” says Wall. “And we can’t treat them as one, because that’s just unfair.”

The Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce has stated they are working on a number of steps to help business owners. These include discussing a loitering bylaw with the city, increasing community policing services, and working with the RCMP to help business owners protect their property.