It's time to build affordable housing

To the Editor,

The cure for homelessness is housing. Lillooet seems very aware of this as there have been three builds of housing for seniors/persons with disabilities, two for Red Rock Manor, and one for McLean Manor (2012). Other community members also need support.

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My perception is that there are 10 'core homeless' people in Lillooet, and many more here for services who cannot afford a hotel. Others cannot afford rent because the Assistance rental allowance ($375 a month) has stayed much the same for decades. This adds to climate change homelessness, be it from fire, flood or other perils. For the core homeless, it is extremely risky to be outside at below -10 without much gear.

The Friendship Centre has been involved in several short-term shelter programs, but those are for emergency need, not for the homeless folks. Each shelter program has a different mandate. There are the cold/wet weather shelters, fire evacuation/heat shelters, women's shelters, and shelters for people who have an emergency need - a house fire, an inability to get their car fixed, or they are evicted, are here to attend court, etc. People are expected to leave shelters within two weeks although some can keep people for six months.

Each type of shelter also has a different 'barrier to access.' Typically, a cold/wet weather shelter is very 'low-barrier', which means there are fewer rules one must agree to. Some shelters accept people who are addicted, or who have children, or they only accept people under fire evacuation order, or only support people who are here for medical needs. The level of noise and/or threatening behaviour within the facility is also a barrier.

The temporary shelters are not available on a routine basis. You can't expect to get the same cot two days in a row, but you might be able to keep the same bedding stored for a few days' use.

The people who need housing, not just shelter, include our street people; people displaced from reserves; seniors and elders; people who live below the poverty line; families, singles and people with disabilities.

My vision is for affordable housing here in Lillooet, supported by BC Housing, and with a mix of all kinds of homes and supports. Some people would pay full rent for a new place while others would pay a lesser amount depending on income, called 'low market' or 'income-tested.' Another group get 'deep subsidy,' or rent tagged to the Income Assistance rate.

In terms of housing barriers, the sooner a person gets a key and a door s/he can lock, the better the outcomes. It was reported recently that it costs about $72,000 annually to care for someone on the street. To house them so they can care for themselves would cost $4,500 plus the same social assistance as if they were homeless.

It is time to build affordable housing here in Lillooet, including a mix of histories, needs, family sizes and prices. With the help of all in and near Lillooet, let's do this.

Jill Stainsby


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