Burnaby Board of Trade spearheading efforts to address homelessness in city
The Burnaby Board of Trade has taken on the challenge of assessing Burnaby's homelessness problem this year and has released its first report on the topic.
A variety of members of the community participated in a roundtable, from politicians to business owners to staff from the city and regional governments.
The business roundtable on homelessness summary report focused on the responses of the business community to ideas put forward by the board.
"Homelessness is expensive, it's bad for business, it's a drain on the economy, and it's a waste of human capital and productivity," the board's president and CEO, Paul Holden, said in his opening remarks in the report.
Susan Papadionissio, chair of the board's homelessness sub-committee, presented a report by the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., Ending Homelessness in Burnaby: A Proposal for a Made in Burnaby Plan. The report was based on feedback from the board's homelessness reference group, she said.
"Its purpose is to overview the Burnaby situation and provide a starting point for the development of a strategic plan to address the issue - it is not the final product," she said at the roundtable.
The roundtable attendees were asked to respond to two discussion questions: what issues pertaining to homelessness in the city concern them most, and how their organization could contribute to addressing and preventing homelessness in Burnaby.
"To effectively address the issue in Burnaby, there needs to be a shelter with transitional support, as well as services to deal with mental health and addiction issues," said Brenda Smith, executive manager of marketing for Grand Villa Casino, during the roundtable.
Naomi Brunemeyer, manager of regional development for B.C. Housing, said the agency could help with financing for a "continuum" of housing.
"There needs to be a continuum of housing in Burnaby," she said. "Having a shelter is a necessary piece of that model, but there needs to be subsequent steps from there, such as transitional housing, followed by low-income, permanent housing. B.C. Housing can work to provide financing to help create that continuum."
The security manager for Lougheed Town Centre also weighed in on the issue.
"Panhandling and public intoxication have become two major problems for the mall, and safety - as well as the perception of safety - has become a concern," Brent Findley said. "Lougheed Town Centre has worked with the Progressive Housing Society and has noticed a positive difference as a result, such as a stores."
"There are major obstacles for housing the most chronic cases of homelessness, especially for example individuals with criminal records," he added. "There needs to be systems put in place to work through those types of obstacles."
The business community could help by creating employment opportunities for the homeless, Frank Bassett, senior director of facilities and corporate services for Electronic Arts Canada, suggested during the open discussion segment of the roundtable.
"This could be lowering the barriers to employment for the homeless and those at risk," he said. "There are programs and creative ways to do this successfully."
The board plans to develop a strategic plan for dealing with homelessness in Burnaby, with feedback from the business community via the roundtable.
Last year, the board submitted a policy resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, calling for a federal homelessness plan. The resolution passed at the chamber's annual general meeting.
The entire summary report, including all roundtable comments, can be found at www.bbot.ca.