Michael Hind is no stranger to the challenges of homelessness.
Hind, the chief executive officer of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, remembers his surprise when he found a man sleeping in the doorway of the chamber’s former office on Pinetree Way in Coquitlam and his concern that there didn’t seem to be other options for the man who said he was a construction worker.
Now Hind wants others in the community to understand the phenomenon of homelessness and ways to deal with it.
To that end the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, is hosting “Homelessness in the Tri-Cities: A Primer for Business,” on Wednesday, April 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Coquitlam City Centre Library.
“He was a construction worker, I asked why he didn’t go to the homeless shelter, he said ‘I’m not a druggie,’” Hind recalled.
Eventually, the man found another place to sleep but the incident stuck in Hind’s mind.
As a business leader, Hind says the chamber has a responsibility to help business owners in the community understand important local issues, and homelessness is definitely one of them.
As problems surfaced on Westwood Street near the 3030 Gordon shelter and transition housing, some have pointed their fingers at the RainCity Housing-run facility. But a report by Coquitlam council’s task force on 3030 Gordon said Fraser Health and the provincial government could do more to provide supports for the homeless and people with addictions issues.
Among the recommendations was another shelter in the community that would require abstinence to get a bed, and more help for addiction, all responsibilities of the provincial government.
But some Coquitlam business owners in the area have told The Tri-City News that the homeless shelter and housing has resulted in an increase in trespassing and crime that’s affecting their bottom line.
Hind agreed that local businesses are often on the forefront of the homeless issue.
He said some business owners find it stressful to come upon a homeless person in their doorway, or used needles on the street near their operation. They don’t know how to deal with panhandling or what to do in difficult circumstances. The upcoming meeting will provide some solutions for people dealing with these issues, he said.
The Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group will provide information, along with a mental health and addictions worker and the RCMP community response team.
Those who attend will get some insight into homelessness, learn about resources available to homeless persons in the Tri-Cities, how to resound to problematic behavior, as well as information about the laws around panhandling and trespassing, how to safely dispose of needles and when to call for help.
The information will help people understand the phenomenon and will give them tools to deal with some of the anti-social behaviour, theft and other problems, Hind said.
It’s free to attend the meeting but registration is required at www.tricitieschamber.com