A Langley man who could face homelessness in the future wants to see a level playing field for people in the Fraser Valley who don’t have permanent shelter.
In an email to the Times with the subject line, “Balmoral drug addicts get BC Housing units when I am in a homeless shelter in Gateway of Hope in Langley,” Jamie Mayden writes that he has been staying at the shelter on the Langley Bypass since the fall of 2016.
“I am in a private room, pending BC Housing, in which I have now been waiting four years after my reapplication,” Mayden notes in his email. “Apparently BC Housing knows I’m here, as they are paying (a) subsidy, my shelter limit of $375 each month. I am only able to be in this situation until Jan. 2019, then I’m out on the street. I am not a drug addict, my mental illness is now getting worse, and I need immediate assistance, otherwise I may end up not living any more.”
Mayden says he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, stemming from an incident when he was 19 years old. He is now frustrated with what he believes is the unequal treatment of people who are struggling in Langley and other suburban cities, compared to the former residents of the Balmoral Hotel.
In a June 9 press release issued by the City of Vancouver, it was announced that BC Housing and the City of Vancouver have secured 131 housing units for residents of the Balmoral Hotel to begin moving into immediately. Pets are welcome in almost all units.
Leading up to the June 12 eviction deadline for tenants at the infamous, dilapidated, single-room occupancy hotel, a dedicated team from the City, BC Housing, and Vancouver Coastal Health were present in the building daily, and continued to work with tenants to identify housing options to meet their needs. Moving assistance was also made available at the hotel.
Further east, Mayden said the homelessness issue in the Fraser Valley is “widespread.”
“During the election, I never saw one person who was campaigning to come out here and see what’s going on, especially here. And not just Langley, it’s all over the Lower Mainland. I feel the government should ashamed of themselves. I blame my family plus BC Housing. I was never homeless — never.”
Langley City Mayor Ted Schaffer points to the fact that in the City, 35 per cent of the housing stock is rental and seven per cent is subsidized, “so we are doing something or attempting to do something.”
“I know as a community we are doing as much as we can, and there’s always room for improvement,” Schaffer said. “The City advocates through the Gateway of Hope and other organization that are within the community. We have conversations with the province and the federal government on this particular issue, and it would be great to see some more facilities come on stream.”
Schaffer said the City is finding there are “a lot of individuals” arriving from outside the community “because of the shelter that are offered here,” citing Langley’s two food banks, the Gateway of Hope, and kitchen services offered from different organizations.
“That does attract people who need some help,” Schaffer said. “But with our small community of 27,000, there’s only so much we can do.”
Veteran Langley outreach worker Fraser Holland said the Balmoral is a unique situation. “Nothing in the Valley at this point is being shut down because of health and safety reasons,” Holland said.
Holland explained that, when a building is shut down because it is uninhabitable, BC Housing steps in to ensure residents are housed and don’t end up homeless, which in turn puts extra pressure on the shelter system.
“I have no doubt they had to be very creative to find places for the people in the Balmoral,” Holland said.
In his experience, when there is a crisis, Holland said BC Housing has been open to suggestions from non-profits working with them, and are interested in being creative in finding solutions.