Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September 19, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Taking concrete action to reduce homelessness in our community

This week, I will be posted about Monday night’s City of Langley Council meeting based on topics. Tomorrow, I will be posting development matters that were addressed at Council. On Thursday, I will post about the remaining items that were on the council agenda. Today, I will be posting about homelessness in our community, and some of the concrete actions that we are taking as a local government to get people the housing and metal health services required.

There is no doubt that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Langley City has increased in the last few years. Francis Cheung, who is the Chief Administrative Officer for the City, presented some facts about the impacts that homelessness is causing in the City of Langley.

The following chart shows the increase in bylaw enforcement investigations relating to homeless camps and people who are homeless over the last four years.

Homeless camps and people experiencing homelessness City of Langley bylaw enforcement investigations between 2013 and 2016. Select chart to enlarge.

As you can see, there has been a seven times increase in investigations relating to people who are homelessness, and a nine times increase in investigations related to homeless camps. Approximately 70% of our bylaw officers’ time is spent addressing issues relating to homelessness. This means that our bylaw officers’ time is being restricted when it comes to addressing other enforcement issues in our community.

For the RCMP in Langley, about 1 in every 13 calls are related to issues around homelessness.

The City of Langley has spent $123,467 year-to-date addressing vandalism and homelessness related issues, and will spend $125,820 on bylaw enforcement this year.

That is close to $250,000 which is a significant amount of money.

Clearly there is both a moral and economic argument to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community; getting people the support they need.

When I ran for council, I made a commitment to work to reduce homelessness. I can tell you that the majority of council is also committed to reducing homelessness in Langley. It will take the support of other orders of government to meet that goal.

City staff and council have been working to get that support over the summer months. Mayor Ted Schaffer announced last night that the provincial government will be supporting our community by:

  • Funding 30 temporary relief shelter spaces starting on September 26th until March 31st 2017 at the Salvation Army Gateway of Hope. These low-barrier spaces will be available from 7pm to 10am daily. There will be 3 meals a day, storage for one buggy, flexible curfew, availability to smoke throughout the night, and access to support staff and case planning.
  • Funding Stepping Stone Community Services Society for one additional temporary, full-time outreach worker to help people who are experiencing homelessness by connecting them with support services to get them off the street.

While this is a step forward, we will need to work with both the provincial and federal governments to ensure that we have enough permanent low-barrier, supportive housing in Langley, and the required support staff. Again, the majority of council spoke to the importance of this at last night’s meeting.

With low-barrier housing options in place, it may also allow the City to increase enforcement in our parks and public spaces. The City has created both a background information and FAQ document about homelessness in our community, including information about the recent court decision which allows anyone to camp in parks if low-barrier shelter space in not available.

1 comment:

charmeyn said...

not everybody who is homeless here in Langley have a drug addiction, they are seniors and people with disabilities who are homeless as well because greedy landlords jack up the rents ( we need a rental cap to protect our low-income seniors and those with disabilities), while the government only allows $375 for shelter; these are not homeless people they are refugee's in their own country of birth