Opinion: Time to step up

Chilliwack has done much work to address the issues of homelessness, but it needs active participation from other levels of government.

One of the more responsible requirements for municipalities requesting funding support to help the homeless is that they have a plan in place that will guide how any additional money is spent.

This seems a reasonable request. Municipalities – especially ones Chilliwack’s size – traditionally don’t deal with complex social issues like those accompanying homelessness.

That’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because that responsibility has been outside their authority and beyond their responsibility.

That has changed – partly because the provincial legislation that gives municipalities their licence has been expanded, and partly because federal involvement has virtually evaporated.

What hasn’t changed is the need.

This week the Chilliwack Progress continues its multipart series on the city’s homeless and the people who work the front lines to help them.

For more than a year, reporter Eric Welsh talked to the people who scratch out a home on Chilliwack streets. Their stories are as individual as the people who tell them, and their voices deserve to be heard.

The City of Chilliwack has been working on a strategy aimed at responding to that need. It’s the culmination of work done by multiple groups and stakeholders. A draft plan was presented in March of this year, and now, after additional consultations and public feedback, the action plan on Chilliwack’s homeless is ready for implementation.

The document provides an important roadmap for addressing not just a pressing social need in our community, but also an economic one.

Homelessness carries a cost – not just in the lives damaged or lost, but in the resources spent on responding to crises that could be dealt with more effectively and affordably through prevention.

But having those resources in place will take more than the City of Chilliwack. As city staff made clear in its presentation of the action plan to council on Tuesday: “Implementation of the plan… will depend largely on funding from the provincial and federal governments and the Fraser Health Authority.”

The City of Chilliwack has done its bit.

Now it is up to other levels of government to step forward.

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