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Opinion: Homeless action plan a good first step

The Chilliwack action plan, backed by a $700,000 commitment, sets out six specific goals, but the city can't do it alone.

Chilliwack is not the first community to look for ways to deal with homelessness. Nor will it be the last.

But while some cities seem confused, indecisive and even intransigent, Chilliwack, at least, now has a plan.

This week the City released its long awaited “Action Plan on Homelessness.” (See story, front page.) It sets out some clear steps that will help reduce the number of people living on the street, or shifting from couch to couch.

However, the plan makes clear that action on homelessness is more than the city’s responsibility. The plan is a road map that invites more drivers.

Indeed, social issues like homelessness are outside a municipal government’s traditional mandate. But being on the front lines, local governments have had little choice.

The Chilliwack action plan, backed by a $700,000 commitment in the 2016 city budget, sets out six specific goals, coupled with strategies aimed at turning the objectives into reality.

The first goal is to, “develop and implement an appropriate housing first approach for Chilliwack.” This is an appreciation for the fact that before the more complex issues that lead to homelessness can be dealt with, the basic necessities like food and shelter must be in place. The strategy then calls for “wrap around” services that support people once they’ve found housing to ensure they don’t return to the streets.

Additional goals include:

• Increase the supply of affordable housing in accordance with community needs

• Increase coordination amongst agencies to prevent homelessness

• Improve the health and safety of the vulnerable

• Increase community awareness of homelessness and build support for solutions

• Support initiatives that build self esteem and support economic self sufficiency

All these objectives are admirable, albeit not entirely original.

But they can’t be done alone.

Chilliwack has made a good start, and even backed that effort with taxpayer money.

Now it’s time for federal, provincial and health authority partners to step forward.