Shelter needed, but process questioned
Editor: I would like to congratulate the Salvation Army’s efforts and all of their hard work regarding the proposed Gateway of Hope Shelter. I agree with everyone at the public meeting on Dec. 10 — Langley needs a shelter. But what I do not agree with is the location and the process used in selecting the location.
I went to a meeting in November hosted by the Salvation Army at the Langley Community Music School. During this information session, I learned of a meeting which was held in September.
According to the Salvation Army, 600 invitations were mailed out to the neighbours of the proposed site. I live adjacent to the proposed location, and I never got an invitation to this meeting.
I questioned many of the other residents in my building and I found two categories of people — those who did not get an invitation and those who got an invitation the day after the meeting.
I questioned many members of the Salvation Army about this. The best answer I could get was “we mailed them.”
Fair enough, and I know hindsight is 20-20, but one would think it would be appropriate to mail them a couple of weeks before the commencement of an information session.
I also noted that a sign had been placed on the proposed shelter property informing the general public of a public hearing on Dec. 10. The part I found most interesting was the location.
The sign clearly read “City Hall” as the location, but if you were one of the people who received the letter from the City, you knew that the correct location for the meeting was the Douglas Park Recreation Centre.
Maybe there is a lesson here; maybe the City can teach the Salvation Army how to mail out letters in a timely fashion. Then in return maybe the Salvation Army can teach the city of Langley how to properly label a sign.
The Salvation Army made a very impressive presentation at the meeting. However, I noticed that the majority of the speakers at the start of the meeting were “supporters.”
Once the majority of the supporters had their opportunity to speak, they left. These were people from various shelters and Salvtion Army facilities in other parts of the Lower Mainland.
I will thank the kind pastor from CLA and the older couple who live up on the hill for sticking it out to the end. Someone had to represent the Shelter location supporters to the bitter end.
There were a lot of compelling arguments over the proposed location. Some said it will flood, some said it is an emergency, some said it was life and death while others questioned BC Housing location selection criteria.
BC Housing states that a shelter has to be close to transit, recreation, social services and amenities (shopping). I have yet to come across a bus stop on the Langley By-bass next to the proposed site.
Next on the list is recreation and they got this one right bang on. The proposed site is across the street from the Langley Twin Rinks. I have yet to see a homeless person use such a facility.
The Salvation Army has assured residents that people will not be coming and going and that it is a one meal a day program. How will they keep track of who has come and gone?
These people have to walk all the way around Kwantlen University College or all the way around the Bypass and down 56 Avenue to reach any form of social services.
Some services will be as far as 2.5 kms distant.
I live and socialize in the downtown core of Langley. I find it ironic that the majority of street people in our community hang out at the bus loop at Logan Ave. and Glover Rd. and also at the 7-Eleven on Douglas Crescent at 56 Ave. Common sense would say, let’s find a place to put up a shelter in this area, as this is where the majority of homeless people hang out. This area is also on the doorstep of the majority of Langley’s social services.
Some people also made mention of a school which could have been used as an alternate location. This sounds good, the walls are up, and the roof is on, heat, water, and hydro, it all works. If we are in such a state of emergency with Langley’s homeless and we all know it sure is getting cold out, why not use this?
One person said it might not pass an environmental study. Was the school not environmentally sound enough for young people to attend?
I must commend the City council on its professionalism. Councillors sat through a lot of emotion and heckling. As a taxpayer and a voter, I do need to point out a few things. Although some people were rude and made some inappropriate comments, it is not up to council to become argumentative with the audience.
I found one councillor’s comments referring to the audience as acting like a**holes to be very unprofessional. Council should not sink down to the level of petty bickering. Councillors are in a position of power and have to make decisions which the average person will never make. I should not have to tell them in a letter how to conduct themselves in public.
These are the facts: the City is leasing the land to the Salvation Army for $1 per year; no property taxes will be paid on this site; BC Housing (the province) is funding the construction of the new facility; and the building will also house the administration offices for the Salvation Army Langley South.
Someone made a comment that this shelter is the mayor’s legacy. I don’t necessarily believe this. I do however believe that this is someone’s legacy.
I guess if I had an opportunity to have everyone else provide funding for my office in a brand new state-of-the-art building, I would not want to use an old school either.