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City supports youth shelter in principle, but holds off on funding commitment

The City of Langley is happy to support, in principle, Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services’ efforts to see a homeless youth centre opened in Langley.

But whether to help fund it is a  matter that requires more consideration, a majority of council members agree.

On Feb. 3, ANS outreach co-ordinator Alison Cartier appeared before Langley City council to make a case for a shelter within Langley, dedicated to homeless youth.

Cartier outlined the dire conditions in which many homeless youth find themselves and made the case for several shelter beds specifically for teenagers 18 and under.

With nothing available to them in Langley, youth under 19 — who are not eligible for a bed at the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope shelter — must be sent out of the community.

Following her presentation, Cartier asked council to provide both a letter of support for ANS’ efforts and a commitment of $1,000 per month for two years to help fund programs and the youth housing initiative.

However, before council agreed to draft a letter or determined what the missive would contain, several members had questions about what exactly what they were being asked to support, and why.

“(Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services) would like to go the shelter route,” said Councillor Dave Hall.

“Why is a shelter better than identifying safe homes where youth might be temporarily housed?”

Cartier replied that it would be a benefit to have a specific place where staff can work directly with the youth on building life skills that will hopefully lead to long-term success.

With a limited amount of money available, an argument could be made that it should go to early intervention as opposed to a reactive effort, Hall said.

Cartier agreed that there is value in early intervention, adding that ANS’ primary goal is family reunification, provided the home is a safe environment for the youth.

At the same time, she said, the agency has to respond to needs as they arise.

“It’s largely a hidden issue — a lot of times, nobody sees it until they walk through our door,” she said.

“Somebody needs to start the process,” she said, adding that is why ANS has approached both the City and the Township.

“Even a letter of support will carry substantial weight,” she said.

Councillor Jack Arnold made reference to rumours of “others working toward the same goal” of opening a youth shelter in Langley.

“Why not work together?” he asked.

“It’s a challenge getting everyone to the table talking about the same thing, with the same agenda,” replied Cartier.

“There was one organization in particular that we mentioned. That organization didn’t want to join you?”

“You’d accomplish more if you joined together, rather than bickering so nothing gets done,” Arnold said.

Following the discussion Councillor Rosemary Wallace read her motion urging the City of Langley to provide a letter of support for Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services developing a Youth Housing Initiative in Langley with the financial assistance and support from community sponsors.

Both Councillor Gayle Martin and Hall questioned the inclusion of the word “financial” in the motion.

Following a lengthy discussion about what language a letter of support would include, council voted  3-2 in favour of drafting one that removed any reference to finances and calls for support from all three levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — with Martin and  Arnold opposed.

Wallace’s second motion, which asked council to commit $24,000 in funding to ANS over two years, was tabled and referred to staff  for more research.

Wallace made the decision, she said, because she would like to see the project receive financial support and if council were to vote on it that night, she realized it wouldn’t go through.

“It’s a good idea to refer this to staff,” said Martin. “There’s a whole lot involved . . . . We need more information on a business plan and how it will operate.”

In December, ANS made a similar presentation to Township Council. At the time, that council also made no decision about funding, while Councillor Kim Richter noted that housing homeless youth is a provincial responsibility.

“It’s a social services issue,” she said.

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