Langley politicians will host an October forum on homelessness as the tent city in a local park continues to slowly grow.
Langley MLA Mary Polak, Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag, City Mayor Ted Schaffer, and Supt. Murray Power of the RCMP will sit on the panel on Oct. 12 at the Cascades Casino ballroom.
Polak has been Langley’s MLA since 2005, and the homelessness issue has evolved over that period.
When she was first elected, it was an issue, including with urban homeless campsites, around places such as St. Joseph’s Church downtown.
The Gateway of Hope shelter was in the early planning stages then, and local officials were working to get it off the ground.
Over the past couple of years, Polak said the perception of the homeless has changed.
“I think it’s where they are,” Polak said of recent concerns over Langley’s homeless population. “But I’ve been hearing from people in the community that there’s a difference in the behaviours as well.”
There have been increasing concerns from people in the City about homeless people entering yards, or being involved in open drug use.
Over different periods in the past few years, there have been big increases in the visibility of the homeless in Langley City’s downtown.
At present, much of the attention is focused on a homeless camp scattered in Nicomekl Park off 208th Avenue south of Fraser Highway.
Polak said one of the reasons for the conference is that people are feeling like they don’t know what to do.
The goal is to listen to the public, gather ideas, and hopefully involve the community in implementing changes.
“I hope we’ll be able to uncover some areas where we can involve the broader community,” said Polak.
A good portion of the event will be about listening.
“We really want to give a voice to people who are going about their daily lives in the City,” said Polak.
Residents will be able to ask the panel questions, and some staff from local agencies are expected to be on hand to answer on more technical issues.
Written questions will also be collected.
Polak said they hope to identify some short-term actions that can have an impact soon, as well as working on the thornier, long-term issues around homelessness.
Doors open for the event at 6:30 p.m.