This week, across the province, is the seventh annual Homeless Action Week.
Here in White Rock South/Surrey, the week is marked by community groups continuing to provide needed services and supports for people who struggle with insecure housing and homelessness.
Homelessness is present in our affluent community. We know up to 10 people per month call the 211 service looking for emergency shelter. While we have no emergency shelter and no specific shelter space for youth, we do have community groups stepping up to do what they can.
Last winter, First United Church, working with Hyland House, BC Housing and 27 community volunteers, opened its doors to provide shelter for 64 nights during extreme weather. One evening, 12 people sought shelter at the church.
It’s been said the solution to homelessness isn’t ‘only’ about housing; it is ‘always’ about housing.
On July 29, 2011, White Rock and Surrey council representatives to Metro Vancouver voted to support Shaping Our Future: Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). This document estimates that over the next 10 years, the City of White Rock will need 600 additional units of rental housing, including 100 at-market rents, 300 for moderate incomes and 200 for low income.
During his Sept. 13 state-of-the-city address, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin spoke about a new Town Centre urban design plan, a new zoning bylaw and a new amenity contribution policy.
The mayor said: “Through the amenity-contribution policy, developers will only be able to increase height above three storeys … if they make significant financial contributions for the benefit of our community.”
The best way to mark Homeless Action Week is by taking action to benefit our community.
An action White Rock council can take is to include affordable-housing targets within the new amenity-contribution policy and the Town Centre urban design plan.
To further develop responses to our housing issues, council could invite the Affordable Housing Committee, which was so helpful in developing the city’s Draft Affordable Housing Strategy, to reconvene to support work on affordable-housing policy.
Jean Macdonald, Peninsula Homeless to Housing Task Force