A homeless couple nap on a Langley City bench in 2018. According to new stats, the number of homeless who live outdoors is on the rise in the City and Township.  (Langley Advance Times file)

Our View: Every winter is an emergency for homeless

We could end homelessness if we really wanted to

With extremely cold weather arriving this week, we’re again wondering how the homeless will be able to survive living in tents and sleeping bags.

Plans are underway for an Emergency Weather Response, despite the added difficulties of COVID-19, to get as many homeless people indoors as possible during the worst of the problem.

And then the bulk of the homeless will have no shelter again, and we’ll have to scramble the next time there’s a cold snap, or heavy snow, or sleet. And the cycle goes on and on and on.

The obvious cure to this problem is to end homelessness, but 2021 is going to be another year we failed to do that, as was 2020, 2019, 2018, and so on.

Two decades ago, homelessness in Langley was just starting to increase sharply, but the numbers were still manageable. With provincial and federal funds and participation from local non-profits and the municipal governments, we could have headed this issue off entirely in B.C. We could have prioritized housing first as a strategy, we could have expanded low-income housing, we could have expanded rent supports faster and protected people from renovictions and demolition across the province.

We didn’t.

So there are approximately 200 people living without permanent housing in Langley. There’s been some progress in recent years, with the Creek Stone Place supportive housing.

But the lack of action shows that, as a society, most of us just don’t care about the homeless. A lot of people think, in some way, they deserve what’s happened to them – strange how so many more people now have done something to deserve homelessness than 20 years ago, isn’t it?

We can end homelessness. And we should, because people are going to die in the cold, if not this year, then some future year when winter bites hard.

– M.C.

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