Advocates of a controversial supportive housing project in Langley will be making their case to residents again this month.
The former Quality Inn on 200th Street near 66th Avenue could be converted into a 49-unit supportive housing project, for local homeless people.
There are more than 200 homeless people in Langley, according to last year’s homeless count.
Richard Savourd is one of the people hoping to see the supportive housing project approved – he would like to live there as a step to getting off the streets.
“I raised five kids in this town myself,” said Savourd. “I love Langley.”
A former truck driver, he never thought he’d be homeless, but after an illness that left him unable to drive, he found himself living on the streets.
“I’d never choose to be homeless, but I am,” Savourd said.
But getting back into housing is difficult.
“$1,000 for a bachelor suite,” he said. “Who can afford something like that?”
Savourd is currently living in the Gateway of Hope homeless shelter.
There are also people who have great difficulty finding and keeping a home, like James French.
A disabled veteran who uses a mobility scooter to get around, French already has trouble finding a place that can accommodate his vehicle.
“If it wasn’t for the ICM, I couldn’t even stay where I am,” French said.
A 14-year member of the Canadian armed forces who served in Iraq during the first Gulf War, French has PTSD as well as mobility issues.
He’s now getting assistance from the Intensive Case Management team, which is dedicated to finding people housing and giving them support.
“If it wasn’t for them, I’d be back out on the street again,” said French. The team has done everything from helping him out with shopping to lending emotional support and counselling when he’s having a crisis related to his PTSD.
He has a home right now, but French said he wants to see the supportive housing project go ahead.
“It’ll get a lot of people off the street,” he said. “It’ll give them a safe, warm place with a roof over their head.”
“Just to have a roof over your head, it makes you feel human again,” Savourd agreed.
The Intensive Case Management team has been working in Langley since last fall. If the supportive housing project is approved, their offices will move from the Gateway of Hope into the new facility.
Local housing advocates say it’s vital, in part because of the extremely tight rental housing market in Metro Vancouver.
As of late last year, the rental vacancy rate in Metro Vancouver was 0.9 per cent. It was actually lower for bachelor units, at 0.8 per cent.
“As a program, we’re desperate for supportive housing,” said Corinne Blasius, the program manager for the ICM team.
Out of 67 clients they support and aid, just eight have housing right now. That’s despite an increased investment in rental funding from B.C. Housing.
Savourd and French are on the waiting lists for existing subsidized housing, but those wait lists can be years long.
“The demand on whatever subsidized housing there is, is huge,” said Fraser Holland, the outreach manager for Stepping Stone.
The building boom in Langley has created lots of brand new houses and condos, but in the process many small, low-end rental units like older houses and duplexes have been bulldozed. Nothing comparable in price has replaced them.
The team behind the supportive housing plan now hopes to speak to the community again, and then attempt to get the project approved by Langley Township council this year, before the October elections.
BC Housing, Fraser Health, and Langley’s Stepping Stone and Langley Community Services Society are now holding a series of small meetings over the next few weeks.
A previous public meeting last October saw several hundred people attend, with a majority opposed to the project.
They raised concerns including levels of policing, possible drug use, public safety, and proximity of the location to a nearby liquor store.
If approved, Stepping Stone will manage the building 24/seven.
The small-scale events to discuss the project are to take place May 14 and 15 from 6 to 8 p.m., May 17 from 10 a.m. to noon, May 25 from 1 to 3 p.m., and May 26 from 10 a.m. to noon.
An open house is set for May 28 at the Langley Events Centre May 28 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
The proponents are hoping the project will go before Township council as early as June.