Burnaby needs homeless shelter: candidates


The 2011 Metro Vancouver homeless count, a 24-hour snapshot taken on March 16, found 73 homeless people living in Burnaby, compared to 86 three years ago.

But unlike many other cities in the Lower Mainland, Burnaby doesn’t have a permanent homeless shelter, with city council asserting that such a facility would be a provincial government responsibility. What Burnaby does have is an extreme weather shelter which operates only on the coldest and wettest nights of the year through the fall and winter. There were four people counted in the city’s sheltered homeless population during this year’s count, compared to nine in 2008.

The NewsLeader asked three council candidates, What should the City of Burnaby do to address homelessness?

Incumbent Coun. Anne Kang, Burnaby Citizens’ Association, is a school teacher and a member of the city’s social issues committee. She has previously served as a director of Progressive Housing Society.

“Burnaby has the third-largest share of non-market housing units among Metro Vancouver municipalities, with 6,170 units. Burnaby is home to 232 assisted-living units and 508 supportive-housing units for seniors and persons with physical and mental disabilities. In new development, 19 units of city-owned non-market housing have been constructed using ‘density-bonus’ funds, with no taxpayer impact. A BCA council will continue to develop innovative programs and policies to provide more affordable housing, without impacting local taxpayers. To ensure the city can offer the long-term, sustainable housing solutions that are critical to effectively addressing homelessness long term, the BCA will advocate that the provincial and federal governments live up to their responsibility to fund the creation of a safe, affordable home for every citizen, including continuing to press for the Hastings Street Urban Renewal Site to be used in a creative and imaginative way for a major affordable housing initiative.”

Rick McGowan, Burnaby Municipal Greens, is a school teacher.

“The homeless and those at risk of homelessness are diverse and require a continuum of supports. This means that the city should expect that a variety of locations will be required to deal with this diversity.

At the very least, the city, in consultation with others, can spearhead the development of an ‘affordable housing strategy’ and rezone suitable sites to meet housing needs.

Over 10 years, Greens would ensure the city helps develop an adequate stock of suitable short and longer term transitional housing resources. This might include an emergency shelter, a multiple bed short-term facility for homeless with immediate medical concerns, an inventory of short-term transition homes, and medium-term supported housing. Establishing an Outreach Resource Centre near SkyTrain is the immediate priority. With a strategy in place, council can adopt land use policies and regulations that support a mix of market and non-market housing within communities. By showing leadership, other stakeholders will follow.”

Ray Power, Team Burnaby, is a retired former RCMP corporal, court clerk and municipal government manager.

“First we must change council’s position that there are no homeless and secondly  know that we have a responsibility to care for them. Burnaby with its massive reserves of cash and its dismissive attitude cannot continue to ‘pass the buck.’ Homelessness affects every aspect of our lives including street safety and public health issues. People will continue to commit petty crimes in order to survive on the streets. Mental health and drug issues will go unchecked and valuable resources will be wasted.

A Team Burnaby council would work in cooperation with provincial and federal ministries to kickstart a homeless shelter. We would identify available land, expedite rezoning, consult neighbourhoods and contribute our fair share. Saying it’s not our responsibility as the current council does only adds to the misery. As a caring community we have to extend a hand to those in need.”

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