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Team candidate decries BCA's lack of action on homelessness

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Burnaby city hall should be working with the province to set up a homeless shelter and not simply saying it's the senior government's responsibility, said Team Burnaby council candidate Garth Evans.

The former councillor was responding to comments by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan following Team's announcement last week that, if elected to a majority on council, it would establish a shelter in the city.

Corrigan, of the Burnaby Citizens' Association, questioned where they proposed to put such a shelter and reiterated council's position that social services, such as those addressing homelessness, are the responsibility of the deeper-pocketed provincial government.

He said it's unreasonable for the province to sell its New Haven lands for a profit but expect Burnaby city hall to provide free land for an emergency shelter.

Evans said that's simply not good enough.

"They'd rather leave homeless people to suffer than work with the province to solve the problem," he said. "They're not going to change, we're going to have to change them," referring to the election of a new council.

There are several examples in the Lower Mainland of cities cooperating with Victoria on the issue, he said, noting the City of Vancouver contributed 14 sites for low-income housing and shelter projects.

Even if Burnaby doesn't want to touch its cash reserves, which is in the $500-million range and largely designated for the future replacement of equipment and facilities, it could choose to use some of its casino revenues for the project, Evans said.

The cost of a homeless shelter to the city also need not be through direct funding, he stressed. Assistance could be through a combination of providing the land, waiving development cost charges, discounting property taxes and expediting rezoning.

As for where such a shelter would be located, "the homeless shelter should go where the homeless are," said Evans.

"I believe the homeless are primarily in the Edmonds area and I would expect a site to be found in that general area that would be appropriate."

He conceded that in Vancouver where its shelters are located, "people do seem to come to that area because that's where they can get looked after."

Evans said when he was on council and serving on the city's community development committee, he made a number of proposals for a shelter but was rebuffed.

"I ran into the same response every time—'it's the province's job and we're not going to bail them out, they're not doing a proper job.'"

But turning a blind eye to the problem isn't the right approach, he said.

"It's working cooperatively with [the province] to make something happen."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

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