Number of homeless camps decreasing in PoCo, staff says

Fifty-nine homeless camps were discovered by bylaws staff last year, down from 122 found in 2009. - tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Fifty-nine homeless camps were discovered by bylaws staff last year, down from 122 found in 2009.
— image credit: tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

The number of homeless camps being discovered and broken up by Port Coquitlam bylaw officials fell dramatically last year as more people are finding places to sleep indoors.

Bylaws services manager Dan Scoones said 59 camps were disbanded in 2010, down significantly from the 122 discovered in 2009. More than 90 were reported in 2008.

With the success of initiatives such as the cold/wet weather mat program — in which select local churches open their doors to homeless people each night through the fall and winter — Scoones said more people are opting to spend the dark hours indoors.

“I think all the things the various groups are doing is having an impact,” he said. “Otherwise, you would expect to see the numbers trend upwards.”

But while the numbers show a decline, Scoones said bylaw officials still have their hands full locating and disbanding homeless camps.

Last month, city staff broke up a large camp along the Coquitlam River between Lincoln and Prairie avenues. A half-dozen people had been calling the area home before bylaw officers discovered and disbanded the camp.

Those who are sleeping outside in the cold months can be the most difficult to house, Scoones said.

“Anyone who is sleeping rough during the winter is committed to that,” he said. “You are probably not going to convince them. Even if you have had interactions with them, they are probably not going to come in.”

Lisa Batista, who does outreach work with the Tri-Cities Hope for Freedom Society, said when city staff break up a camp, she or other support workers are usually on hand to offer services. The homeless are generally given some warning before a camp is broken up, she said. If their possessions are still left behind, junk removers will haul their items away.

Batista said the break-up of a camp can sometimes compel someone who is tired of having to constantly relocate to move indoors. But in many cases, the homeless person will simply collect his or her things and find a new place to live.

“Usually, they just move to a different location,” she said. “We do have some clients who just aren’t into getting housed.”



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