The mayors of Port Moody and Port Coquitlam have joined leaders from several other communities around the province to urge the federal and provincial governments to do more to combat homelessness.
Mayor Rob Vagramov, along with Port Coquitlam’s Brad West and mayors of 14 other municipalities, along with Chief Ken Baird of Tsawwassen First Nation, said in a joint letter sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan that the coming rebuilding of the economy as it recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is “a vital opportunity to move Canada’s blight of homelessness from out of our challenged present and our bright future, and into the shadows of the past where it belongs.”
The letter said the homelessness problems needs a “decisive program” that will help get people off the streets and benefit the rest of society by reducing property, cutting crime, advance public health objectives and create employment. It will also increase the province’s appeal to tourists and make its cities safer and more inviting.
The leaders said the recovery could be a “watershed moment in Canadian history to build a society that is fundamentally better than ever before.”
They said cuts and closures of supportive housing arrangements over the past several decades, like those at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, have sent “countless members of society” out into the streets that has “blighted our communities with a level of needless and unjustifiable suffering.”
The letter urged the federal and provincial leaders to resist the temptation to ignore the homelessness issue in favour of focussing on economic recovery. Instead, it said, the two should go hand-in-hand.
“This is one of those crucial turning points in the life of a society that calls upon our national community to use the pause we have all been forced into to step up to a better system of operation.”