Year in Review: Hope on homelessness as supportive housing opens

A long-awaited project opened its doors

A major change came for Langley’s homeless residents when Creek Stone Place opened its doors at the end of October.

Formerly a Quality Inn in the 6400 block of 200th Street, the supportive housing project was controversial with neighbours and some community members objecting to the plan to move 49 people off the street.

The residents were moved in over a two-week period in late October and early November. It was far later than Stepping Stone Community Services had hopes to open the facility, originally planned for late spring.

“It’s so exciting,” Janet Burden, executive director of Stepping Stone said on the day move ins began. “It’s been two years since we first started talking about converting that building into supportive housing.”

Renovations took through much of the spring and summer, far longer than anticipated. The project had been approved by Langley Township council at the very end of 2018.

The vote was unanimous, but had followed a series of contentious public hearings in which multiple residents pushed back, raising concerns that the centre would bring crime and drugs into the surrounding neighbourhood.

Creek Stone Place is low-barrier housing, intended to get people inside, provide them stability in housing, and access to other supports ranging from job training to health care to addiction and mental health treatment.

The project will not end homelessness in Langley. A survey of teh number of homeless people in Langley several years ago found more than 200 were sleeping on the street, in the bushes, or in shelters every night.

Cold and wet weather in November saw the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope open its doors for both regular and emergency shelter, and the facility was at maximum capacity most nights.

There is capacity for 77 people in total at the shelter during an Emergency Weather Response (EWR), including 15 extra mats added during snow and cold rain.

However, Gateway’s residential services manager Cristina Schneiter said that since Creek Stone had opened its doors in the fall, the number of people turned away had dropped sharply. In October, Gateway had to turn away 95 people. By the middle of November, it had only turned away seven for the month.

Efforts to aid the homeless in Langley included work by groups such as Kimz Angels, the Friends Langley Vineyard Church, numerous social service organizations and the provincially funded Intensive Case Management Teams.

One unique effort that began this year was a partnership between the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS), Paws for Hope, and the Gateway of Hope.

Two free clinics were offered so that homeless and low-income people with pets could get their furry friends seen by a vet, for check ups, vaccinations, flea and de-worming treatments, nail clims, and ear cleanings. The clinics were held in March, and were so popular that another one was already being planned for 2020.

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