Thursday, March 9, 2017

An action plan to reduce homelessness and camps in Langley

About a mouth ago, I was in Victoria and noticed a “No overnight sheltering” sign at the entrance to one of the local parks in the area. The BC Supreme Court ruled that people who are experiencing homelessness can erect shelters and sleep in city parks and properties between the hours of 7:00pm and 9:00am if they cannot find shelter.

A picture of a “No Overnight Sheltering” sign at a local park in Victoria. Select image to enlarge.

Local governments can limit camping to certain parks, but that does not reduce the number of people who are camping because they can’t find shelter space, it simply shifts people around. Now there may be certain parks where camping should not occur to protect an environmentally sensitive area or for safety reasons, but the key to reducing camping is to ensure that people can find proper shelter.

In the case of Victoria, local government and the province worked together to find space for people that were camping. You can read the full details about this in a post I wrote last year.

What step have been taken, are should be taken, to ensure that people do not have to camp in parks in Langley? Homelessness doesn’t respect municipal borders; solutions to reducing homelessness needs to include Langley City, Brookswood, Willowbrook, and Willoughby. Local governments include Langley City, the Township of Langley, and Metro Vancouver. Each order of government and non-profit organizations must work together to reduce homelessness in our community.

As I see it, the following items are key to reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness:

  1. Local governments continue to support the Gateway of Hope’s request for the provincial government/BC Housing to make the recently increased, temporarily funded shelter spaces, permanently funded. The City of Langley provided the land and rezoned the land to accommodate the Gateway of Hope. The Gateway of Hope is operated by the Salvation Army.
  2. Local governments continue to work with the federal government and provincial government/BC Housing to find a location and advocate for funding the capital and operating costs for a supportive housing facility with 24/7 wrap-around care within the Metro Vancouver designated Langley Urban Centre. Local government would need to provide the required rezoning to accommodate a supportive housing facility. The province and/or feds would provide the funding.

    Langley Urban Centre. Source: Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

  3. Local governments continue to support the recently announced Langley Youth Resource Centre, and ask for feedback from the operators about successes and challenges once it is fully operational for a year.
  4. Local governments continue to advocate to Fraser Health to provide an Assertive Community Treatment team for Langley.

I believe that if the actions noted in these four items move forward, the number of people experiencing homelessness and camping in our community will be reduced.

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