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Sechelt responds to homeless problems

Sechelt responds to homeless problems

Sechelt will provide up to $6,100 for an additional needle disposal unit and to bring a peer outreach program for the homeless on stream earlier than planned.   The funds will help address increases in substance abuse related debris and people experiencing homelessness in Sechelt’s downtown core. Council made these decisions at its July 3 meeting. 

A delegation at Sechelt council called for early deployment of the Community Action Team to address homelessness issues. The delegation included Nick Gaskin of RainCity at the mic, and RCMP Sgt. Don Newman. Connie Jordison photo

With recent concerns about homelessness voiced by downtown area residents and businesses, council opted to provide interim funding to see outreach services introduced immediately.  People can now call 604-767-9307 or email to contact the Community Action Team (CAT).  The team will investigate reports related to substance abuse and homelessness that impact safety in Sechelt’s public areas and on private property and contact the appropriate authority.  

The money will come from the district’s operating budget. It will cover temporary funding for the CAT outreach and a public awareness campaign about the service.  An additional safe needle disposal unit and a portable toilet will also be placed in the downtown area.  All district public washrooms have needle disposal containers. The added amenities will be sited where demand exists, but no facilities are located close by. 

The decision followed a week of inter-agency meetings that culminated in a delegation representing RainCity, CAT and the RCMP appearing at the meeting.  The group outlined that CAT, mandated to reduce harm that results from substance abuse, has been funded by the province over the past year.  It has applied for renewed funding and to expand its services.  The expansion would see two peer counsellors available in Sechelt two hours per day, seven days per week.  These counsellors would assist people seeking help with finding housing or addressing issues related to their addictions.  These workers would also help the community by responding to reports related to unsafe disposal of drug paraphernalia and concerns related to the homeless.  

The delegation said an announcement regarding ongoing provincial funds for CAT is pending.  

Mayor Darnelda Siegers stated that many BC municipalities are experiencing problems with sudden increases in the number of homeless in their communities.  She said that Gibsons Mayor Beamish has indicated this does not appear to be happening to the same degree in his community.  Nick Gaskin, who spoke on behalf of RainCity, stated Sechelt has a variety of services that people in need frequently access. Sechelt has become the Coast location where individuals often choose to stay so that they can access services like the food bank, mental health and addictions programing and Arrowhead.  

In closing the discussion, Sechelt-based RCMP Sgt. Don Newman said: “Anytime a group asks for money, it can seem like a big sum. But when you put that amount against the cost of a person spending a night in the emergency room or the dollars involved with a police interaction, it is not.  Homelessness is not a crime and we need to move away from criminalizing it.  This proposal is a very well thought out and inexpensive way to address the community’s concerns.” 

Connie Jordison 

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