A panel made up of (from left): MLA Mary Polak, MP John Aldag, City of Langley Mayor Ted Schaffer and Langley RCMP Supt. Murray Power hosted an October forum to discuss the issue of homelessness in Langley. Writer Marie Gold says there is more the provincial government can and should do to help the community’s less fortunate.

Letter: B.C. needs to do more to help the homeless

Editor: I attended the homeless forum in Langley with a panel of Mayor Ted Schaffer, MLA Mary Polak, the police chief and John Aldag, MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, leading the forum.

The public was invited and it was an interesting mix of people; the stories that were told were real and heartbreaking.

Most of the homeless are mentally ill or disabled — physically or mentally.

Some were just down on their luck because of job losses, illness, death or divorces.

The government closed Riverview many years ago and did not plan or provide for the mentally ill, so they ended up on the east side of Vancouver or on the streets, drifting, and now we have a large number of homeless in Langley. Yes, there is the Gateway of Hope, which has provided shelter and hope to a portion of the homeless.

What I learned at the forum was that these highly paid people leading the forum really didn’t know how to solve these problems in Langley.

Our Liberal government people, such as the Housing Minister, MLA Rich Coleman, don’t seem to care, because I just read in the Langley Times that with the announcement by Premier Christy Clark that 2,900 more affordable units will be built over the next two years, but no projects were slated for Langley City or Township.

The money for these new units comes from a $516 million housing fund announced in September.

These units are to provide for low-income seniors, special needs individuals, Aboriginals, women and children. But none of this money is going to Langley for housing.

This doesn’t make sense, because listening at the forum, all the money is being spent on the police force moving the homeless camps from place to place or other emergency services.

I worked in community living for 25 years, so when I got up to the microphone, I suggested — and some others suggested similar solutions — that if the municipalities proved more services to these people, the problems would not escalate.

I also suggested a drop-in centre could be opened where these people, who are human beings, could go and receive a hot meal, a free shower and receive clean clothes.

If the City would treat them with compassion — and not like they are criminals — they may be able to have a little dignity and rebuild their lives.

I read in the newspaper today that the provincial government is planning to dole out $630,000 to help new immigrants land a career.

These projects will be funded through the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.

Why is the B.C. government not looking after our own homeless people and not solving the problems in our own community?

Marie Gold,

Langley

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