Rarely does the Township of Langley’s Council come across applications that face explicitly moral decisions, but last Monday was this term’s first true test. In a defining moment, following months of contentious & emotional debates and a lengthy midweek Public Hearing, Council unanimously supported BC Housing’s re-zoning application for Stepping Stone’s supportive housing at 6465 200th Street.
While the project had significant support from around Willoughby, Langley, and the region, it also had major opposition from local residents, fearing increased crime and drugs from a concentration of homeless in one spot. Reflecting on the vote in a heart wrenching op-ed, however, Langley Advance’s Matthew Claxton counters:
“The homeless people I’ve met are often candid about the reasons for their situation. Addiction and mental illness often play a role, but so do injury and illness, job loss, and alienation from family. Those things can happen to anyone, and they are not moral failings deserving of punishment.” – Matthew Claxton, Langley Advance
As a resident of the immediate Jeffries Brook community, I strongly supported the project. I hoped to help convince my neighbours to not fear the develop with the argument that the homeless are already in our nearby parks, living aimlessly, without assistance and desperately taking what they need to survive.
However, I learned at the public hearing that the vast majority of the project’s opposition had no interest in not listening to proponents or even in reading any of the available documentation, regularly asking questions that were already answered from day one. When I compassionately and politely asked a group of local opponents outside of the public hearing whether they were aware of that at least 50 homeless (my count) were camped invarious sites at the side of the streets and parks within 1500 meters of the site, not only did they NOT deny it, they just walked away from me. It was deeply saddening to be surrounded be such an uncompromising and unresearched fear-based position.
Until the evidence is reasonable refuted, I will continue to hold to the position that this project will not only be a significant factor in changing the lives of the local homeless (soon to be not-homeless), but it will also be a major win for our community in reducing crime and unncessary bylaw and policing expenditures. It will also be an important example for potential future sites in Willoughby, Brookswood and Aldergrove and outside of Langley. I hope that as the project moves forward, my neighbours are able to soften their hearts and witness the evidence of positive transformations.
I am deeply appreciative of council for taking a strong moral stance and doing the right thing for our community.