Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove photographed in Langley on Jan. 29, 2020. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times file)

Mayor reacts to suggestion to ship those in quarantine from the DTES to Chilliwack

'People do best when they stay where they have supports already in place,' stated Chilliwack mayor

The suggestion by a former Surrey mayor on a political panel that it might be a good idea to house quarantined COVID-19 patients to an area formerly occupied by CFB Chilliwack, did not going over well at all in Chilliwack.

“This morning Dianne Watts made an uninformed comment that CFB Chilliwack could be used as a place to help quarantine vulnerable people from the DTES,” stated Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove in his update for March 29.

Popove contacted Watts right away after the clip aired on Global, and he was invited to weigh in by Skype. But in the end he declined the opportunity.

The old military base, of course, has been transformed into a vibrant, mixed-use master-planned community in Chilliwack and not equipped for any dire medical influx.

“She was unaware that the area is now home to the Canada Education Park and the popular neighbourhood of Garrison Crossing,” recounted the Chilliwack mayor. “Over the last 13 years we have worked hard through the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation to transform the old base into a world-class education, training and research facility, featuring the University of the Fraser Valley, the RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre, the Justice Institute of British Columbia and Canada Border Services Agency.”

The former politician agreed to retract the inaccurate information she released about Chilliwack, Popove said, and was awaiting word. By Monday morning, Popove said there had been a brief response from Watts on social media, but no apology to speak of, and there was “the subject was glossed over, and there was no meat to it.”

“At the end of the day I do think (the former mayor) gets it. But an apology is something I would still encourage,” Popove added.

The mayor who chairs the Housing First advisory committee, is painfully aware that shipping highly vulnerable folks around the region is not the answer, especially in the age of COVID-19.

“While I understand how important it is to protect our vulnerable and high-risk population, this isn’t a situation that can be easily addressed by transporting large groups of people experiencing homelessness to a different community.

BC Housing has made it clear that people recover best when they stay where they have supports already in place.

Popove underlined he’s been working hard to ensure everyone is protected during this health crisis.

“My staff have been speaking with BC Housing and Fraser Health in order to find a suitable self-isolation facility for members of our homeless population that are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.”

“I think we can all agree that it is of the utmost importance to make sure people experiencing homelessness have access to a safe space to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I believe each community should work with BC Housing and their local health authority to find a solution that works best without displacing anyone into different communities.”

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