British Columbia

Metro Vancouver homelessness needs regional approach, says mayor

Metro Vancouver is hoping a new regional task force on homelessness will help cities better grapple with the issue.

Metro Vancouver mayors coming together to find solutions as a region

A homeless camp sprang up behind the Salvation Army in Maple Ridge in 2015. Mayor Nicole Read says a regional approach to homelessness is needed. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Metro Vancouver is hoping a new regional task force on homelessness will help cities better grapple with the issue.

Many cities in the region have their own task forces on homelessness, but now those efforts are coming together for the first time.

"The task force is actually made up of mayors and senior staff, and so this is an action-oriented task force," Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, who co-chairs the task force, told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"Cold temperatures and people sleeping outside, that's one issue. The overall, ongoing increase in homelessness across Metro Vancouver is something that needs to be looked at … the mayors can work together, put their heads together and come up with some potential strategies."

The task force will focus on providing recommendations to the provincial government, Read says, because homelessness is a provincial issue.

She says it's "sad" that communities have, up until now, been dealing with the issue "in silos" and looking for solutions on their own.

"It's time that local governments in Metro Vancouver came together as a group and started asking for things with that group strength behind them," she said.

Read says her own community of Maple Ridge has few options when it comes to handling homelessness. She says there are 70 people in two emergency shelters, but one of those shelters, the Salvation Army, has been embroiled in controversy.

Finding a site for permanent, supportive housing has also proved difficult because of strong community opposition.

"We're turning away around 10 people a night, and that doesn't even count the people who are couch surfing," she said.

The first meeting of the task force will take place Friday morning, and Read says emergency cold weather shelters will be the top priority.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Metro Vancouver homelessness needs regional approach, mayor says