Homeless encampments in rural parks are on the rise, according to a new report from the Fraser Valley Regional District.
The district says homelessness is putting pressure on parks and it wants the province to come up with a coordinated plan to resolve rural homelessness.
FVRD Chair Jason Lum, also a Chilliwack councillor, said the homeless population in the area is growing further away from urban areas.
“For us it starts to raise alarm bells because it’s putting people further away from the resources that they need,” Lum told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.
“Besides just the human element, it’s causing in some cases environmental and ecological issues that we just don’t have the resources to deal with.”
Lum said the camps have varied in size. Some have had populations of 30 to 50. Some are larger. Services are nonexistent for them, he said, and in the winter their situations become particularly dire.
Change in rhetoric needed
Housing Minister Selina Robinson said in a statement she agrees about the importance of working together on the issue.
“I know that rural areas have unique challenges and tackling these challenges will require us to work closely together,” Robinson said. “I am pleased to see such an eagerness in the Fraser Valley to work with the province on these issues.”
The ministry said a new Office of Homelessness Coordination will open its doors in the coming months. Its staff will coordinate with local government and frontline service organizations to help with housing and social services.
Lum, however, says too often the province is simply dismantling camps and forcing campers farther afield.
“We really want to come up with solutions here and get people … access to resources that they desperately need,” he said, but added a change in attitude is also needed from some communities that have opposed more housing.
“Simply stopping these modular housing projects from happening is not going to make the issue go away.”
Listen to the full interview:
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