“Housing is a basic need,” says Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley.
“For too many in our community, a place to call home remains elusive,” the mayor wrote in a report submitted to council on April 3.
Hurley successfully requested council’s approval to create a Mayor’s Task Force on Unsheltered Community Members which will respond to homelessness in the community.
The task force has a mandate to develop “a response that prevents pathways into becoming unsheltered and supports pathways out of being unsheltered,” according to the reports approved by council.
Coun. Maita Santiago will sit as chair of the task force, the mayor as vice-chair and Coun. Daniel Tetrault as a member.
“It’s a good first step towards addressing this very real concern in our community,” Santiago said.
“And I also just wanted to underline that when we talk about unsheltered people in our community – they are. They’re people in our community, and so they’re people that we also have a duty to serve.”
The task force is expected to begin in May or June of this year. It will give an interim progress report to council three months in and a final report after six months including “solutions and recommended … timelines.”
Two councillors stressed the need to include people with lived experiences of homelessness on the task force.
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said individuals with personal lived experience should be a part of the task force, as well as mental health advocacy groups.
Coun. Alison Gu agreed, adding: “It would be remiss of us to not hear about the real barriers that exist to actually getting to the root of homelessness without hearing from members who have lived experience.”
Dhaliwal said a lack of investment from upper levels of government contributed to homelessness across Canada.
“What has happened over the last 30 years is caught up with us … maybe even longer,” Dhaliwal said, adding “new input is welcomed.”
Metro Vancouver’s 2020 point-in-time homeless count showed 3,634 people experiencing homelessness throughout the region and 124 people experiencing homelessness in Burnaby, according to Metro Vancouver’s 2022 Housing Data Book. The point-in-time data is considered “an undercount” by the report but still a “good indicator of the magnitude of need for housing and support services.”
The number of Burnaby households on BC Housing’s social housing waitlist grew by 43.4 per cent or 538 households between 2016 and 2021, according to the data book.
The city also released a decision to approve two new community safety staff positions “to assist unsheltered community members,” although no additional information on the positions is available as of publication.
Other task force members
- Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby
- Progressive Housing Society
- MP Terry Beech’s office
- Lookout Housing and Health Society
- Fraser Health
- Burnaby RCMP detachment
- Burnaby Primary Care Network
- Burnaby Board of Trade
- BC Housing
- A Burnaby MLA