Municipalities can help tent cities with provincial aid, says UBCM president

Municipalities can help tent cities with provincial aid, says UBCM president

Provincial housing efforts can be facilitated on local level

As West Shore residents gathered to raise their concerns of the tent city’s latest location in Goldstream Provincial Park, mayor Stew Young once again said he has reached out to the province for help.

Arjun Singh, the president of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and a councillor in Kamloops, said homelessness is not an easy problem for local governments to handle on their own.

“It’s a tricky one for local governments because we are not in the legislative business of providing housing. We’re not funded that way in terms of our taxes,” Singh said.

Instead, he said municipalities can work with the provincial government to facilitate supportive housing, shelters and conversations with stakeholders at much as possible.

READ MORE: West Shore residents hold forum to voice frustration with Goldstream Park homeless camp

“Every community will do that in different ways,” Singh said. “Some will provide faster permitting, some will provide land … I think the key point is it’s very challenging for us to take on the whole job. We’re just not funded that way. We’re working with the province to help facilitate, but not take on the whole funding for housing.”

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He added that while supportive housing is a provincial effort, it’s the local governments who hear everyday concerns firsthand.

“Tent cities are very difficult situations,” he said. “We’re all concerned about people in them and people around them.”

What should happen while people are waiting for housing units to be ready is “a heartbreaking question,” Singh said.

“We are in a place now, I think, where there’s a greater awareness of folks who are on the street and are living homeless. It’s very bad we have that situation in our province. It’s better in terms of the opportunity to get more housing online than it’s ever been… The bad news is we have tent cities, and the good news is we have in the last couple of years seen an unprecedented effort from all levels of government to approve housing as soon as we can get them on stream.

“Help is on the way, but it’s obviously a cold comfort for some folks who are still in those situations or around those situations.”

READ MORE: Langford mayor upset with province over homeless camp