2016 Year in Review: More on streets than ever before

Homeless camps dotted Nicomekl Park through the middle of 2016.— Image Credit: Langley Advance Files

Homeless camps dotted Nicomekl Park through the middle of 2016.— Image Credit: Langley Advance Files

Homelessness became an ever more visible issue in Langley over 2016.

Early in the year, outreach worker Fraser Holland estimated that more than 360 people were either homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Langleys.

Langley City in particular has seen a higher concentration of people living on the streets, close to services and businesses. It was one of the top issues for many of the candidates who took part in the City’s February byelection.

For part of 2015 and early 2016, there was a great deal of concern over people sleeping in shelters and under tarps set up in the downtown itself.

By summer, the concern had shifted, as property owners and authorities moved most of the downtown camps along, and a new tent city sprouted in Nicomekl Park.

Langley City monitored the situation, and in October finally ordered the campers to move out – for their own safety, before fall rains flooded the low-lying area.

The provincial government provided funding for another 30 emergency beds at the Gateway of Hope shelter for some of the displaced people.

When cold, wet weather hammered Langley in December, the shelter saw its highest number of people seeking aid ever – 92 in one night.

Langley City sought solutions for the homeless through a task force, and a forum in October was hosted by Langley MLA Mary Polak.

The RCMP saw increasing numbers of calls regarding homelessness, though as Supt. Murray Power has noted, being homeless alone is not a crime.

Local youth, like Brookswood teenager Meaghan Laycock, promoted creating a Langley youth homeless shelter, for the 162 teens thought to be at risk of homelessness in the community.