Feature Story Friday, February 21, 2014
The Home Makers
Healthier Communities forum engages the community
Karen Steegstra, Executive Director of Chilliwack Youth Committee listens to participants at the forum Wednesday. Below, Rodney Phillipson takes part.
ome call them hobos and refer to where they sleep as hovels. On Tuesday, about 75 people took part in the Healthier Communities Stewardship Forum on Homelessness & Affordable Housing at Evergreen Hall. One of the issues up for discussion revolved around getting people who are currently living on the street, into safe housing.
The participants, none of which were homeless, showed remarkable concern for those less fortunate individuals, who for whatever reason, find themselves living under bridges and overpasses or hunkering down in bushes.
Participants also provided invaluable feedback and input on affordable, low barrier housing for seniors and the disabled.
City of Chilliwack staff, including Karen Stanton, Manager of Long Range Planning, asked participators questions and fielded comments that staff will later assimilate and develop strategies which will work hand-in-hand with the City's Official Community Plan.
After the discussions took place, people were asked to place stickers on what they felt were high-priority items.
Long-time Lions Club member Will Schacher says Chilliwack needs affordable housing, but local service organizations such as the Lions Club, who develop non-profit housing projects, are stymied due to land costs.
"Thereís a big need for low income housing and senior housing," says Schacher. "Our president has talked to the City Hall. They need more senior housing. They need more affordable housing, more homeless housing and yet the land situation holds back the costs, so weíve got to encourage the City to give a break on the land, or kick-in some land, or do something like that."
Fire crews struggle immensely with four-storey structures made of wood and this worries Schacher about the safety of those types of buildings.
Karen Stanton, City of Chilliwack Manager of Long Range Planning jots down responses from participants.
"Even though the land costs are high, contractors try to build them affordable, but theyíre making them out of cheap sticks so theyíre not safe," he says. "If you try to build them with concrete and steel between the floors and sprinklers, then the costs are so high, even with affordable land, itís going to be hard enough to keep prices low enough for some low income people."
"The contractors are building the cheapest apartments you can possibly make out of sticks, and the whole place could burn. I donít like it that itís not safe," says Schacher
There is help for homeless people. Treatment options for addicted individuals include Riverstone Daytox at Chilliwack General Hospital helps get people off the street by working as an outpatient treatment program visiting people with drug and alcohol addiction issues in their homes providing doctors say itís medically safe to do so.
The annual Homeless Count takes place March 11-12. Agencies such as Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS), Ruth and Naomi's, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Chilliwack Community Services (CCS), Ministry of Children and Family Services (MCFD) mobilize teams of volunteers to scour neighbourhoods and shelters.
For more information, visit the City's web site here.
See more photos below.
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