Discussion of the issues that affect you on a local, provincial and federal level
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Rumours and Rumblings
Courtesy of the City of Quesnel: Editor's Note -- Weekly Quesnel City Council column written by Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson. He can be reached via email here
There is a persistent rumour that homeless people are being dropped off in Quesnel by the bus load. Variations of this rumour have been around since the 2010 Olympics, when some residents claimed people had been shipped up here from Vancouver’s Eastside. Other variants have the City, or Northern Health, or Seasons House getting a per head subsidy for every new homeless person these organizations accept into our community.
Let me put this as clearly as possible: there have not been, nor are there currently, busloads of homeless people being dropped off in Quesnel. Even if your distant cousin or your best buddy’s best buddy has seen this first hand, it is a myth.
However, like every urban center with localized health care and social services we are seeing an increase in homeless people in our community, along with an increase in public drug and alcohol use, panhandling, vagrancy, and squatting. We’ve also seen a trend toward more people on income assistance and more “transient” homeless people staying for a time in Quesnel.
All of the above phenomena are a direct result of our social systems continuing to be underfunded, families breaking down, children not getting the supports they need in our schools and at home, and the level of mental health and substance abuse related issues increasing in our society. The current opioid crisis has amplified a long trend line of social instability and growing poverty.
While there is no substance to the rumour about Quesnel becoming a hot bed for the homeless, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have issues that must be addressed, and Council is working with every partner and on all fronts in an effort to address them.
We continue to be a proactive partner with Northern Health and BC Housing to facilitate the work of the Community Caring for People with Addictions (CCPA) round table. This collaboration currently has a dedicated facilitator and organizer who is helping us to turn our plans into actions and look at concrete ways to improve our service delivery capacity in our community.
The City and Northern Health are now enabling more mental health and addictions supports being deployed on the street while at the same time adding more RCMP and Bylaw capacity. We just met with the Ministry for Social Development and Poverty Reduction and this Ministry will also begin working with us to deploy more street-level resources.
The City has also enabled funding to be secured to have a full time mental health clinician made available to our community by providing the space and furnishings needed to house this new resource. And, we are working with the childcare community to develop a plan to add more quality childcare spaces, including the potential building of a new child care facility with provincial funding. On a similar vein, we’re engaged in discussions with the appropriate agencies about getting a Foundry program established here in Quesnel, this integrated approach to providing youth supports would go a long way to helping us break the cycle of social instability, mental health, and addictions.
Council is also working with the Cariboo Regional District and community partners to develop a comprehensive housing strategy. This strategy will build on the success we’ve had to date in attracting BC Housing funding to our community by adding even more social housing units and supports while at the same time seeking to address our market housing needs as well.
We all need to be patient and understanding as we deal with these complex and deeply entrenched societal issues. Quesnel is not unique in this regard, all communities are dealing with the same systemic problems.