Letter: Many unanswered questions around supportive housing project

Editor: I attended the meeting for the proposed supportive housing in the Quality Inn at 201 Street and 64 Avenue in Langley.

While my initial reaction to the proposal was fear, I felt less resistant after taking the time to ask questions and research homelessness and the different housing models.

I came to appreciate the wrap-around support model and felt it could be a positive addition to our community. However, after attending the meeting I have more questions than answers and I have some considerable concerns. Location is not one of them and I live one kilometre away from the proposed location.

My main question is why was a low-barrier housing model chosen?

There are limited resources available for the homeless. Why shouldn’t available resources go to support people who want help over those choosing to remain in active addiction?

With no limits on length of tenancy, a tenant could remain housed and actively addicted in this complex for years, preventing someone who truly wants access to support from getting it.

I do believe people with addiction should be provided with opportunities to change, when they express a desire and a willingness to actively work towards that goal.

When they are ready, community partners should be available to direct them to supports like this one. If someone isn’t ready to change, they’re not going to.

While that is my main concern, I have a number of other thoughts and questions that I would like to share, with the hope of getting some answers before the public hearing.

Housing people without addictions alongside those with active addictions seems problematic to me.

I don’t know many people who would willingly invite addiction into their home, yet this is what we’d be asking many people to do under this model.

I understand there are people who choose to go back to the street when they’re placed in low-barrier housing, as they find the street safer and less chaotic than living in shared space with active addicts.

Recent literature reviews also suggest that low-barrier housing is less effective at maintaining sobriety for active substance users than sober living. If we want successful outcomes for all tenants, how is the low barrier model setting them up for success?

In Victoria, 844 Johnson Street is an example of a recent BC Housing low-barrier supportive housing complex. They have faced some pretty major challenges, both in the complex and in the surrounding community, and they are still struggling to find ways to deal with them. How is this project in Langley different and how will the partners in this program ensure that what is happening in Victoria doesn’t doesn’t happen in our community?

Studies suggest that the success of supportive housing is partially dependent on the availability of suitable housing for tenants to “grow into” as they work through the program and towards independence. Does suitable and affordable housing exist in Langley for tenants to move into?

If not, what efforts are being made to ensure these options will be available when needed?

It was stated at the meeting that the funding for this project is guaranteed for five years. What happens at the end of five years if we are faced with a government with different priorities?

Maple Ridge recently had a temporary supportive housing complex close because their funding ended.

Many of the tenants ended up on the street, creating new tent cities and sleeping on private properties. What guarantees do we have that this won’t happen here?

I was very disappointed with the lack of early community engagement around this project and I hope a genuine effort will be made to communicate with the community prior to the public hearing.

There have been some valid questions asked that I think deserve answers and I hope the rush to push this proposal through the Township approval process won’t outweigh the need to build trust and relationships with the community. If we’re going to be neighbours, this matters.

Evelyn Forrest,

Langley

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