The lack of an emergency shelter for homeless youth in Langley is forcing help agencies to send them to other municipalities, depriving them of support in their own community.
“We are losing a lot of youth,” said Alison Cartier, the youth homelessness initiative supervisor at Aldergrove Neighborhood Services.
“We have to send them away . . . to where they can access a bed.”
Cartier was speaking to an afternoon meeting of Township council on Dec. 9.
At that time, she said, there were five homeless youth from Langley who were living in emergency shelters outside the Township, one as far away as the North Shore.
Cartier and community support worker Melody Leskun were making a case for two youth emergency shelters with five beds in the Township, one in Aldergrove and one in the City of Langley.
There would be two permanent beds and one “swing bed” in each location that would be available as needed.
The Township’s share of the cost of the proposed two-year, $148,000 pilot project would be $2,000 a month.
Cartier said the beds would give counsellors more time to find solutions that keep young homeless people living in their own community, something that makes them more likely to accept help.
“Without a space [locally] it’s difficult even to get them to get out of the cold,” Leskun said.
“It’s hard to have long-term success with short-term stays,” Cartier said.
“They want to live here,” Cartier added.
“They deserve the opportunity to live here.”
Starting Point, the Eastleigh Crescent storefront office operated by Langley’s homeless outreach services in partnership with Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services, has worked with 138 homeless individuals who are under age 25 since June, 2010.
The office has been able to find employment, financial assistance and stable housing for less than half — about 60.
Local youth housing and placement support workers have a monthly caseload of 15 individuals under the age of 20.
Council made no decision on the request for funding.
Councillor Steve Ferguson was sympathetic, telling the delegation that “youth homelessness strikes a button with us all.”
Councillor Kim Richter had her doubts, saying the municipality was being asked to fund what should be a provincial government responsibility.
“It’s a social services issue,” Richter said.