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LETTER: Langley homeless numbers growing and many close to being homeless

Local letter writer says he’s concerned about the changes he’s seen over the years

Dear Editor,

I was moved and hollowed out, by the lead off story, [RE: More than ever living on the streets, Langley Advance Times, Dec. 10].

Many of you in the community, know of my family either in passing or by reading about my mother in this newspaper over the decades.

When my parents arrived in Langley Township from Calgary in the spring of 1986, I was not yet one. At this point in our communities history – it would be a ‘stretch’ to call Langley a ‘suburb’ by today’s standard definition in Metro Vancouver.

This is driven home by looking at the 1986 federal census in comparison to the latest federal census in 2016. The differences are absolutely staggering.

When you combine the population of the ‘Langleys’ in 1986 – the combined total population was just 69,991 people.

In the 2016 federal census the combined population of the Langleys was assessed at 143,173 people. This population growth reads like the curvature of a right angle in a ‘hockey stick graph’ – representing a booming 104 per cent growth rate.

Looking at various population projections for our two communities, we can expect the Langleys to double our population density by 2040, to about 400,000 people. This is something my mother has fought to both plan for and prepare for, during her entire tenure on council.

The one thing that no politician in our community can plan or mitigate for, is how we act towards one another in the Langleys. To be frank, not only am I disheartened, but I am deeply saddened as well by the current state of things.

It used to be that, ‘Langley was a nice place to live’. There used to even be funky sweaters, available for sale (locally) in the early 1990s, with this slogan prominently placed on the centre of the chest, to this effect. Sadly, this isn’t true anymore.

Tommy Douglas, the progenitor of the Canadian medicare system (renowned the world over) once wrote:

‘We are all in this world together, and the only test of our character that matters is how we look after the least fortunate among us. How we look after each other, not how we look after ourselves. That’s all that really matters, I think.”

Sadly, I don’t see us honouring, “‘The Greatest Canadians” [CBC Program 2004] invocation all those years ago. What I see happening in the Langleys, now is the opposite.

What I see is citizens running to and fro, juggling one appointment after the next. Wrapped so tightly around the metaphorically axel, that even at the mere attempt of humour to lighten the mood, I see people freak out.

Where I see this most often, is in Langley City, where I walk around on a daily basis- sometimes early in the morning and sometimes later at night- when I can’t sleep because of pandemic anxiety.

I see a lot of emotional dumping and ignorance of the needs of Langley’s growing homeless community.

On the walk home, about two weeks ago, from one of our many craft breweries in the community, I stopped in and had a chat with a group of homeless men near my condo building that looked to be about my age (early-to-mid-thirties) and what they had to say to me- mirrored my own anxieties about the world and the community that I proudly call home.

That there are too many people living, just to get through the day and to pay their bills, not taking the time or the opportunity to smell the roses or even to get to know their neighbours, as was common practice in the Langley of my youth.

It was in this moment, that I came to the realization, that the only way back to the Langleys’ of my youth & or out of the Covid-19 anxiety spirals- we all seem to be gripped by these days, is to honour the maxim that Tommy Douglas extolled: we need to remember, that we are all in this together.

Sadly, no amount of government subsidies and or relief spending is going to get all the ‘unsheltered’ people off of the streets of Langley City.

What will help to stem the hurt, is to look someone eye-to-eye (2 M away of course) and recognize their humanity. To relearn, that the only way through the pandemic (besides following Dr. Bonnie Henry’s masking and social distancing rules) is to be kind.

It doesn’t cost you anything and can provide a lot of happiness in an otherwise – difficult and challenging time.

R. Stafford Richter, Langley

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