Thursday, October 13, 2016

Last night’s forum on homelessness, and action the City must take in the next six months

Last night at the Cascades Casino Convention Centre around 250 people attended a forum on homelessness within the City of Langley. The forum was put together by the Hon. Mary Polak who is the MLA for Langley City. Panellist included Mary Polak, John Aldag MP for Langley City-Cloverdale, City of Langley Mayor Ted Schaffer, and Officer in Charge of the Langley detachment of the RCMP, Superintendent Murray Power. The forum was moderated by Teri James who is the Executive Director of the Downtown Langley Business Association.

A packed house at last night's forum on homelessness within the City of Langley

The Langley Times has publish an article which provides an account of what happened at the forum, but I also wanted to post in board strokes what I heard from people and panellists at the forum, and the next steps that I think the City of Langley could take to move forward with reducing homelessness in our community.

At the forum, I was pleased to see and hear that the majority of people in attendance were looking for solutions.

People who live next to places where people experiencing homelessness camp spoke at the forum about the challenges they face living next to these camps. These people's quality of life has been reduced.

People who have experienced homelessness, living in parks and on the street in Langley City, spoke at the forum about the challenges they face daily. One person said that they want help, but the kind of help required wasn’t readily available.

It is clear to me that the current situation in Langley City is failing both our housed and homeless residents.

People at the forum also noted that youth in Langley are experiencing homelessness, but the support systems for these young people are less available than for adult, or are completely non-existent in our community.

There appeared to be consensus at the forum that government needs to step up to ensure that people have low-barrier access to mental health care and addiction treatment services. There was also a call to make sure that there was the right amount of housing options available for all people of all ages in our community, no matter where they are at including: shelter space, supportive housing, transitional housing, and affordable housing.

I believe that people know what needs to be done, and they are looking to government to get the job done. The BC Liberals have made housing a key part of their upcoming election campaign, and are looking to show leadership. Mary Polak stated that the province is looking to do something in Langley around housing. The federal Liberals are working on their National Housing Strategy, and John Aldag stated that he will work to get federal funding for supportive/affordable housing in Langley City. The role of the City of Langley is to show leadership, and work with both the federal and provincial governments to ensure our residents get the support they need.

Based on what I've heard over the past several months from people, I believe the City of Langley should be doing the following over the next six months:

  • Strongly advocate for the provincial government to make the temporarily funded shelter spaces in our community permanently funded.
  • Strongly advocate for the provincial government to provide funding for a youth shelter within Langley.
  • Strongly advocate for the provincial and federal governments to fund, and work with the provincial government to find a suitable location within the Langley Urban Centre, for a supportive housing facility with 24/7 wrap-around support service to stabilize people who have been homeless with the goal of transitioning them into permanent housing.
  • Strongly advocate for Fraser Health to provide an Assertive Community Treatment team for Langley.
  • Work with the province to ensure that all people in Langley City have access to low-barrier mental health care, and addiction treatment services.
  • Ban camping within the Nicomekl Floodplain due to safety risks and the environmental sensitively of the area (camping cannot be banned in all public parks due to a recent court ruling.)
Map of Langley Urban Centre (in red). Select map to enlarge.

I will continue to work with others on council to ensure that we are doing our part to reduce the number of people camping in our parks and living on our streets, getting them into supportive housing.

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