Ending months of speculation, plans were finally announced last week to build supportive housing on the site of an ongoing eyesore in Chilliwack’s downtown.
The decaying and derelict Traders Inn Motel will soon give way to a 46-unit modular housing complex that will provide 24/7 wrap-around support for people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
The project is significant for a number of reasons.
Most obvious, it addresses a real need within the community. Over the past several years we’ve watched the number of people living on our streets grow. We’ve seen them in our parks, under our bridges and by our rivers.
Pushing them from one place to another is not a solution. People need safe, stable housing before their more complex needs can be addressed.
Which is another significant aspect of this plan. It will not simply warehouse people in hopes they’ll change their habits. It will provide them guidance and support, understanding that lifestyle change is not something that happens overnight.
Significant too are the partnerships this program creates. In addition to the City of Chilliwack and the province, both the Fraser Health Authority and the First Nations Health Authority will work together to provide long and lasting care.
The announcement may not eradicate homelessness in Chilliwack. But it is another move the right direction. There have been other steps, including the work being done by groups like the Salvation Army and Ruth and Naomi’s.
All form important pieces in a puzzle that is as complex as it is important to solve.
Homelessness and addiction create problems beyond the immediate. Not only are lives ruined and families broken, society as a whole pays the price through more policing, higher healthcare costs, and greater social disruption.
Pretending these issues will sort themselves out is not only naive, it is unethical.
Those who have fought long and hard to have this reality recognized should be congratulated.