Opinion May 2010

Recently, there have been several articles and letters to the editor regarding homelessness in Burnaby.  It is clear that Burnaby citizens are very aware that we have many people struggling to live with dignity while dealing with homelessness and poverty here in Burnaby.

Thanks to the past efforts of all levels of government, the city has the second highest number of social housing units in the province. As well, the city has worked very hard to ensure that our stock of affordable rental housing is protected from demolition. Without these efforts our city would be seeing a greater number of homeless on our streets. Nevertheless the need for housing suitable for single people in need of affordable housing remains.

The issue of homelessness continues to grow, not only in our community, but in all communities throughout BC. It is troubling to realize that the number of people who are dealing with homelessness in Burnaby is rising dramatically (110% from 2005-2008) as efforts to provide services are becoming more challenging without housing and resources.

Many Burnaby citizens understand the daily challenges people face when they are homeless: sleep deprivation, poor hygiene, inadequate clothing, hunger, increase in illness, social isolation, an increased exposure to drugs and crime. There are a growing number of people in Burnaby who are working to make a difference by volunteering their time or donating items such as food, clothing and other supplies to assist their neighbors who are less fortunate. The Faith Community generously supports the work of the Progressive Housing Society Homeless Outreach Program and the Lookout Emergency Aid Society Extreme Weather Response by ensuring ongoing donations from their members.

Through the dedication of the Progressive Housing Outreach Workers, who respectfully advocate for those in need while providing viable options for change, the lives of many individuals have been improved in a positive way.  The number of people who have responded to these contacts by entering treatment speaks to the effectiveness and importance of this outreach work.

But we cannot eradicate homelessness only by these efforts. The Burnaby Task Force On Homelessness works to inform, educate and advocate for changes to the situation of people facing homelessness in our community.  We cannot do this alone. Together, all levels of government, health authority, service agencies, business and citizens can make a difference. The Task Force needs Burnaby citizens to speak out about the need for partnerships, collaborative practices and political strategies to address the underlying issues of homelessness. Homelessness is not going away and will increasingly cost taxpayers more to ignore than to address the issue with pragmatic and long-term solutions.  All citizens in Burnaby, including those citizens who are dealing with homelessness, want to live in a safe, healthy community.

The Burnaby Task Force On Homelessness is committed to working with all levels of government, social service agencies, business and faith communities and concerned citizens to ensure the provision of housing, support services, and health care to people who are dealing with homelessness or at risk of homelessness in Burnaby.

The Burnaby Task Force On Homelessness is fortunate to have amongst our membership, the expertise to provide a continuum of housing as well as the experience of successful models of housing in neighboring communities. The continuum of housing for which we advocate in Burnaby is designed to assist people with leaving the street, providing support services and expertise to deal with medical care, addiction and mental health difficulties. As people become stabilized they are provided with supported transitional housing to remain off the streets and learn long term solutions to leading productive lives.

 Our work needs your support.  If you would like to be kept up to date about our work, please visit www.burnabyhomelesstaskforce.org .  We would be happy to add you to our email

list as well to keep you informed. Together, we can ensure homes for all through building community and building homes. 

Wanda Mulholland

Chair Community Awareness and Provision of Services Sub Committee

Burnaby Task Force On Homelessness

Posted in Homeless

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