Langley City has asked the Township of Langley to reconsider joining a City-sponsored initiative to search for local solutions to homelessness.
The formal invitation, in the form of a letter, was issued by City council following the first meeting of the Homelessness Action Table (HAT) last month.
It comes after the Township declined to participate in January, with a letter from mayor Jack Froese saying because a regional homelessness plan is being developed by a Metro Vancouver task force, the larger municipality “would like to wait for those results before proceeding with an additional plan.”
Councillor Gayle Martin, the City rep on the newly-formed HAT, said it could be a long wait.
“You shouldn’t hold your breath,” Martin said.
“We have to act locally before we act regionally.”
The decision to issue another invitation to the Township to join the table was approved at the last meeting of City Council, during which Mayor Ted Schaffer called HAT, “a step in the right direction.”
Getting the City and Township working together was one of several top priorities identified by the Langley Homelessness Strategic Plan approved in April 2016.
The plan was created by the City of Langley Homelessness Task Force chaired by Martin, which included two Township councillors as well as representatives from the Langley RCMP, BC Housing, Fraser Health Authority, community-based agencies and non-profit societies, and the Langley RCMP
At the first meeting of the 12-member HAT — described as an advisory coalition of various levels of government, social service agencies and faith-based organizations — creation of a “partnership agreement” between the two Langleys was once again listed as a top priority.
Other key concerns include forming a Homelessness Integration Team that works with the RCMP and municipal bylaw officers to respond to “police/bylaw calls related to persons experiencing homelessness,” creating a “permanent supportive housing project,” increasing the number of rent supplements in the City and Township, creation of a youth safe house and other measures designed to tackle issues of mental and physical health among the homeless.
The Langleys have the third largest homeless population in the Lower Mainland, according to a recently-released study that found there were 206 homeless people counted in Langley in the 2017 Metro Vancouver count, which was conducted over two days in March.
Vancouver had the largest homeless population, with 2,138 people, with Surrey second largest at 602.
The Langleys saw a 124 per cent increase in the number of homeless people since the last count in 2014, when 92 people were classified as homeless.
A separate report by the Metro Vancouver task force on homelessness showed the Township of Langley and City of Langley are among nine Metro municipalities reporting larger homeless camps — those with more than four people.
The Township reported “two to three” larger camps, while the City reported one.
Officials at both municipalities said those figures were from last year, before a temporary expansion of the shelter at the Gateway of Hope in Langley City which reduced the number of people living in camps in the Langleys and eliminated the larger camps.
Township manager of community and council initiatives, Bill Storie, told the Times the reported numbers fluctuated depending on when municipal staff closed down encampments, while City Chief Administrative Officer Francis Cheung, a member of the Metro task force, said the one large camp in the City was cleared out after the expansion at Gateway.