An incident where a homeless man brought a pellet gun into the Timms community centre in Langley City is an example of how bad the problem of people without a place to live has become, eyewitnesses said.
On Sunday (June 3) two women, who asked not to be named, told The Times they were visiting the library in the community centre on Douglas Crescent at 12:30 in the afternoon when they heard a clatter in the lobby.
“It sounded like someone dropped a metal water bottle,” one of the women said.
Then, they both saw a man wearing a sweatshirt grab what looked like a handgun from the floor, conceal it on his person and flee before a security guard could intervene.
The second woman thought it might be a paintball gun, but it didn’t have the orange tip on the muzzle that would indicate it wasn’t an actual handgun.
“It was scary,” she said.
A Langley RCMP report on the incident said the man with the gun returned to the Timms centre on Monday, where a security guard spotted him and called police.
The report said what turned out to be a BB gun was turned over to police without incident by a homeless man, and no charges were being recommended.
The man has been banned from the centre for a year.
The eyewitnesses, both long-time residents of Langley City, said disturbing incidents involving the homeless are on the rise.
“It’s crazy down there (in downtown Langley City),” one said.
“It’s really changed. If you’re caught looking at them (homeless people), they’re threatening.”
Both said they avoid going out at night and are planning to take a self-defence class.
The pellet gun incident follows a May confrontation at a Tim Horton’s in Langley City where a woman, apparently angry at being refused the use of the washroom, defecated in the restaurant and threw feces at the staff.
The person, shown in a security video clip that went viral, was identified as a homeless woman who frequents the Langley City area.
After the incident, she was detained and released by the RCMP, and a court date has been set to determine if charges will be laid.
Currently, it’s estimated that there are between 90 to 150 homeless individuals in downtown Langley City.
Among efforts to manage the situation, the city has an Intensive Case Management team, that provides outreach with clinical supports for those facing substance abuse and mental health issues.
Stepping Stone Community Services Society has partnered with a nurse practitioner one day a week for community work, and RCMP officers have been working with individuals who are dealing with mental health issues.
Homelessness is also an issue in Langley Township, where an attempt to set up supportive housing has generated substantial controversy, with nearby residents opposing the project.