Security costs mount in Chilliwack as schools fight homeless mess

'We've had staff dealing with this when they could be dealing with other things'

Two syringes found during a cleanup in a forested area that connects two of Chilliwack's schools.

Two syringes found during a cleanup in a forested area that connects two of Chilliwack's schools.

School got back in session amid a flurry of parent complaints and media coverage focusing on the mess of homeless camps and drug-related garbage.

But at Tuesday’s school board meeting, it was made clear that the Chilliwack school district has facing the problem head-on for months.

“We’ve been dealing with this all summer,” said Allan Van Tassel, director of facilities and transportation. “We’ve moved forward with more effort. We haven’t solved it but it’s definitely helping.”

That effort comes with a price tag. The district is now forking over an extra $1200 a day for security, mostly through extra nighttime security through Griffin. The district has also bulked up supervision during breaks at some schools.

The Griffin security team members have a good relationship with the homeless population in Chilliwack, staff said. So, bringing that company into the fold has helped get the word around that school grounds are not places to be camping out.

“It’s been a very strategic move that’s worked for us,” said Gerry Slykhuis, secretary treasurer for the district.

In addition to addressing the homeless problem, the extra security has helped to decrease vandalism. Cleaning up after vandals, who have burned garbage cans, broken windows and covered school in graffiti, has been a major cost out of the district’s operating budget.

And while the cost of security has increased, it also allows teachers and staff to spend less time cleaning up the school and more time working toward educating students.

“We’ve had staff dealing with this when they could be dealing with other things,” Slykhuis said.

Trustee Paul McManus said he was happy to see parents attending the meeting. A handful of parents did show up, including Justine Hodge, District Parent Advisory Council chair. She spoke on behalf of the parents and PAC executives who have brought up complaints of homeless camps and drug paraphernalia on school grounds.

In speaking to the board, Hodge requested the board sit down with DPAC and hammer out a time for a public information meeting.

“Student safety is at risk and parents deserve to be informed,” she said.

McManus said “there’s no easy solution.”

“Chilliwack is an appealing place to come to economically, but obviously it’s also an appealing place from homeless to come to as well,” he added. “But we have to keep them away from our schools, and we have to talk about this every single day until it gets better.”

Trustee Bob Patterson noted that the school district is part of the 43 or so agencies working together to find housing solutions, while trustee chair Silvia Dyck said dealing with homeless camps is “like fighting fires.”

“It’s in perpetual motion,” she said. “You put one out and another one comes up. We will as a board network to try to find solutions. It’s everybody’s problem. We have no space to sweep them.”

Trustee Barry Neufeld made a motion to the board to ask the BC School Trustees Association to take action on the homeless issue, as an advocate for school boards. Trustee Dan Coulter seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously, with Trustee Walt Krahn absent.

In the second public participation opportunity of the evening, Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Lee-Anne Clarke also spoke about the need for action.

“What’s really at the core is that schools must remain safe places,” she said, for the students and for teachers and staff. She also said it was important for the board to view it as an “ongoing process.”

The District released a statement regarding fields that are shared between the city and the school board.

“In the past year, due to increased homelessness in Chilliwack and a recent change of a City bylaw, the School District has experienced an increase of homeless camps situated on school grounds, often adjacent to City parks. This issue has been ongoing and staff have been dealing with it all summer,” the statement said.

“The school district and the City have a number of shared fields. During operational hours it is the district’s responsibility for scheduling and caretaking.  After operational hours it is the City’s responsibility. Although complexities exist ensuring site security and clean-up, this positive partnership through good communication provides significant benefits for our students.”

 

Www.sd33.Bc.ca-sites-Default-files-Regular Board Meeting Agenda Package Sep. 20.PDF”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Annette Williams with Chilliwack Learning Society holds up one of the pages of ‘Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!’ by Candace Fleming, the story chosen for the downtown StoryWalk event. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
StoryWalk transforms Chilliwack trails, sidewalks into outdoor literacy adventures

Families can read children’s stories together, page by page, as they walk story routes

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Items seized by Chilliwack RCMP and Abbotsford Police during a Feb. 23 traffic stop. (RCMP photo)
Police from Chilliwack and Abbotsford seize drugs in traffic stop

Chilliwack RCMP worked with the Abbotsford PD to seize four kilograms of suspected fentanyl

(Black Press file photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for man who tried to grab boy near Robertson elementary school

A man in a parked minivan reached out the driver side window as a young boy passed by

Hope’s station house, moved from its original location along the railroad to 111 Old Hope Princeton Way. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Most Read