A big blue tarp now masks the road sign of a Glover Road motel that’s been purchased by the province for supportive housing of Langley’s homeless.
The B.C. government has abruptly doubled the number of supportive housing units in Langley by buying the motel in Milner for $10.1 million.
The former Canada’s Best Value Inn, at 6722 Glover Rd., has been leased by BC Housing as an emergency homeless shelter since April 2020, but the purchase was announced Monday, May 3 of this year.
“With this purchase, we can improve the lives of people living in the streets and parks of Langley while making the whole community more livable and sustainable,” said David Eby, attorney general and minister Responsible for Housing. “We will continue to explore opportunities like this across the province that provide vulnerable people with a stable foundation for a better, dignified life.”
The Lookout Housing and Health Society has been managing the site since it was leased in April 2020 and will continue to operate the facility, which has 50 units.
The society will provide residents with support services including daily meals, life-skills training, employment assistance and counselling, and access to addiction treatment and recovery services. The site will be staffed 24 hours, seven days a week.
Lookout Society has set up a community advisory committee to oversee the supportive housing’s integration within the community and to address any questions raised by people in the neighbourhood.
One current resident of the site told the Langley Advance Times there have been problems with violence, drugs, and damage to the property over the last year.
“What they’ve done is taken Strathcona Park, downtown Vancouver, and put it right inside this building,” said Lars Sjosgrand.
He said that since he moved into the building last year, he has complained to the management, but there have been multiple fatal overdoses, fist fights, mattresses tossed out of the rooms, trash, and other issues.
“There’s fights, screaming up and down the hallways all hours of the night,” said Sjosgrand.
His rental agreement says drug use and violence is banned, but Sjosgrand said it doesn’t seem people who violate the rules are being removed.
He said he has heard from management on site that renovations are planned.
The Langley Advance Times has reached out to the Lookout Society for comment on the site’s future.
Although the province has bought the site, it still has to go through a rezoning process to become a supportive housing project, said Township Mayor Jack Froese.
“Council hasn’t had a chance to look at it,” he said Tuesday, May 4.
The process should be the same or similar as the process to approve the transformation of the Quality Inn into Creek Stone Place, Froese said, although the main difference is that the former Quality Inn was empty when it was purchased, renovated, and debated.
There will be opportunity for the public to have a say and for council to debate the matter, Froese said.
“Hopefully, this process will improve things,” he said.
The purchase price includes $9.4 million for the property and $700,000 in closing taxes and fees. BC Housing will provide $1.4 million in annual funding to operate the facility.
With its former life as a hotel and its supportive housing and staffing, the site is similar to the Creek Stone Place site on 200th Street, in the former Quality Inn.
However, that site didn’t welcome any residents until there had been months of public hearings and debates at Langley Township council.
Creek Stone is a 49-room supportive housing project, which secured a unanimous vote of approval from the Township council in December 2018, but not before attracting a significant debate in the community, with many neighbours opposed to the project, citing concerns around crime and potential drug use.
The Canada’s Best Value Inn is located in a far more rural area, near the intersection of Glover Road with 216th Street and Crush Crescent.
As homelessness continued to increase in recent years, the province has increasingly moved to building or buying supportive housing, using a “low barrier” or “housing first” model. Older forms of transitional housing, like shelters, often require residents be clean of drugs or alcohol before moving in, but the housing first model emphasizes getting people off the streets to stabilize their lives while making drug treatment, job training, and other services available.
The last Metro Vancouver survey of homelessness, in 2020, found that there were more than 200 homeless people on the streets or in shelters in Langley. The number without any shelter had increased 26 per cent from three years before.
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