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A Starting Point for Langley's homeless
The name says it all -- Starting Point.
Langley’s homeless outreach services in partnership with Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services has opened up an office in the heart of Langley City, on Eastleigh Crescent, that is a drop-in spot for those in need, said outreach worker Fraser Holland.
A one stop-shop, if you will, for young and old looking for help with filling out welfare forms, tax returns (which are now required to receive welfare) and to find housing or emergency help of all kinds, said Holland.
“Before I was out in the community at different locations, from the soup kitchens to the bush and I was hard to track down,” said Holland. “Now, people can come here five days a week and there will always be an outreach worker here.”
The success of the outreach program has allowed Stepping Stone to hire a fourth outreach worker. His function is mainly to work with the homeless at the Gateway of Hope.
Langley’s homeless population is growing. Holland said his oldest client is 89 years old.
Here’s another telling number: Out of the hundreds Holland works with, 255 are 55 and older.
“That means I’m dealing with cognitive issues and other age related health problems,” he said. As they got older and stuck in their addictions, along with age related issues, they become harder and harder to house, he said. Just through word of mouth, they have already had 280 different people through the doors of Starting Point. In the meantime, the Gateway of Hope homeless shelter is running at 108 per cent.
“We have to look at prevention, making sure youth get the help the need before being homeless becomes entrenched in them,” he said. That’s where ANS comes in, with their youngest client being 11 years old.
Alison Cartier, ANS youth housing and placement support worker, said her role is to prevent youth from living on the streets.
“When home isn’t an option, youth can come to us here and we can do housing searches together, find a safe place to live and set up a life plan,” she said.
Because there is no shelter for youth, a lot of teens will couch surf so they can stay in their own community, instead of move to Abbotsford where beds are available, she said.
“A lot of youth want to stay in their school. It’s the one constant in their lives,” she said. But a lot of the teens she deals with — of which there are 20 more in need of help just this summer in Langley — think they are getting a brand new condo with $500 rent.
“They don’t realize how little $500 will get you and it’s a big reality check. They often say to me that they shouldn’t have to be worrying about this kind of stuff at their age and they are right,” she said.
Funding for the Starting Point office was secured through Metro’s Homeless Partnering Strategy. Last year’s homeless count showed an increase of homeless in Langley. It’s through Stepping Stone that the outreach program came to Langley in 2006, bringing Holland on board.
He’s helped hundreds of homeless find housing, act as a mediator between landlord and tenant and continually follows up with his clients providing support so they stay housed and safe.
Many people would arrive at Stepping Stone’s clubhouse or at the soup kitchens looking for Holland.
“This office is a great location. It’s very close to the Ministry office and in the heart of where a lot of homeless are,” said Janet Burden, executive director of Stepping Stone.
Holland has been joined by Emily Aldcroft who has been working with Langley’s female homeless and with the local prostitutes. They are more willing to trust a female, Holland said.
Her work could explain why nearly half the people using the shelter are women now — only 15 per cent of the beds were used by females in years past.
Starting Point is located at 20626 Eastleigh Crescent.
NOT ENOUGH HOUSING
For years, a Langley man lived in, what outreach worker Fraser Holland called, a ‘glorified shed’ paying $500 per month for a shack with no running water.
Holland has since set the man up in a better housing situation. This situation is all over Langley with people paying rent to live in squabbles.
In a dilapidated home, since knocked down at 198 Street and 56 Avenue, rent was $800 and walls were down to studs, there were holes in the roof, he said.
Many of the smaller bungalows in Langley City, that once could house a group of roommates, have all been torn down to make way for condos.
“We have lost a portion of our housing,” said Burden. “The lack of affordable housing is the biggest issue we have in Langley.”
It’s something outreach workers are striving to change.
The average rent is $725 and basic welfare is around $610.