Residents of a homeless camp in Langley City and other homeless individuals at other locations will be able to stay indoors this winter.
Mayor Ted Schaffer has announced an agreement with B.C. Housing that will create a temporary relief shelter with 30 places at the Gateway of Hope shelter.
Schaffer told the Monday meeting of council that the deal was brokered by City Chief Administrative officer Francis Cheung in response to complaints about the people living in tents on Nickomkl floodplain near 208 Street and Fraser Highway.
The mayor said councillors and city staff have been “besieged” by emails complaining about homelessness-related problems, and have been working hard to address the issue.
“Behind the scenes, there’s an immense amount of work that goes on,” Schaffer said.
Cheung (pictured) said the agreement was only a “temporary” solution and a permanent resolution must found.
“The status quo is simply not adequate,” Cheung said.
While the budget has not been formally approved, Schaffer said B.C. Housing has given the project the green light.
The shelter will operate in the amenities room of the Gateway facility, a few blocks away from the homeless camp, from Sept. 26 to March 21 from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m.
There will be three meals a day, storage for one buggy, a flexible curfew and the “availability to smoke throughout the night,” the mayor said.
Councillor Gayle Martin noted the agreement addresses a recent court ruling that allows the homeless to camp in public spaces when they have no other place to go.
The shelter agreement also includes funding by B.C. Housing for an additional full-time outreach worker to assist the homeless in the community.
Schaffer also announced there will be a community forum on homelessness in Langley City organized by MLA Mary Polak on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Coast Hotel ballroom with Schaffer, Polak, MP John Aldag and Langley RCMP Supt. Murray Power.
The mayor said the City is attempting to negotiate a deal with the Township for a joint bylaw that would restrict shopping carts to units with locking wheels, to prevent them being taken off-site by the homeless.
He said he was aware of one instance where a single homeless person had amassed 21 shopping carts.
The City has begun contacting out-of-town property owners to get them to adopt no-trespassing and no-loitering policies that the police can then enforce.
A report by Cheung to council (see below) estimates the cost of homelessness to the City so far in 2016 at $249,000, just in terms of vandalism and park clean-up costs.
That figure doesn’t include the cost of police and medical calls.
Cheung said the RCMP has handled approximately 550 ‘homeless’ related calls so far this year, which represents one in every 13 calls.
Note: an earlier version of this story included a reference by mayor Schaffer to a Langley Township forum on homelessness, but one has not been scheduled.