It probably won’t solve the homelessness problem but it might “stem the flow” of Indigenous youth heading from Chilliwack to Vancouver to live on the streets.
Plans to establish a Indigenous Welcome Centre in Chilliwack were announced during the Virtual Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2021 Facebook Live event on June 21.
The committee setting up the Indigenous Welcome Centre, includes Steven Point, chair of the Dan Milo Memorial Longhouse Society, and his wife, Gwen Point, with other key agency reps and partner groups.
The welcome centre they envision “will prevent or interrupt homelessness” through improved access to culturally relevant health and wellness services.
Steven Point explained during livestream that opening a Chilliwack Friendship Centre for off-reserve Indigenous people had long been a dream. They never got the green light to get a friendship centre here since there was already one in Mission, and the non-profit had no budget for a new one.
“We persisted,” Point said about partners who pushed for the welcome centre. What to name the space evolved with discussion and consultation in the past two years, and they chose “welcome centre” to describe a space rooted in culture to offer services and referrals.
The welcome centre will be an important addition to the community, said Mayor Ken Popove during the livestream.
“We need to work together,” Popove said about partnering with local Indigenous neighbours on projects like this, echoing his election pledge to do so.
The location has not yet been confirmed, but the planning continues.
On the subject of homelessness, Point noted it’s been around since biblical times.
“It’s one of those complex issues where there is no one solution.”
The welcome centre will be “part of the puzzle, part of the answer,” Point said.
The issue with homeless youth, especially the migration of those running from their communities to Vancouver, it doesn’t start in Vancouver, he said.
“It starts in the communities. They end up on the street. The migration starts. But if we have a chance to stem the flow, get them involved, with work projects, sports teams, powwow.
“I’m not saying we can solve this but we are putting an oar in the water to do our share.”
Plans to establish an Indigenous Welcome Centre were shared during the Indigenous Peoples Day Facebook Live event on June 21 because they wanted to offer up something positive for the future, Point said.
The event saw Métis dancing, traditional Stólō songs and dancing, fiddling, pow wow dancers and stories. The event was shared in a Facebook Live presentation. Partners included Stólō Service Agency, the City of Chilliwack, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, Chilliwack Metis Association, Xyolhemeylh, Dan Milo Society, GPSC (General Practice Services Committee) Chilliwack.
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