A Terrace social services worker speaks with a citizen living in a tent in April of this year.

A Terrace social services worker speaks with a citizen living in a tent in April of this year.

We can’t put homelessness on the back burner

Guest Columnist Steve Smyth hopes people won't go silent on the homelessness situation in Terrace, B.C.

I’ve been watching with concern to see the next developments in the ongoing homelessness situation in Terrace and area. In the weeks since the K’san rezoning application was rejected, it seems, at least to outsiders, that the various parties have gone back to their individual silos to discuss their next moves amongst themselves.

Important questions remain unanswered and a number of people I have spoken with are concerned that the delay we currently find ourselves in will result in a loss of momentum and in some cases, positive energy that seemed to have been building.

The questions I hear most often regard the administration and responsibility for homeless people throughout the area.

The K’san Housing Society has a well-earned reputation for delivering well administered and much needed programs locally. The Salvation Army’s history of helping those in need has deep roots in the area and the Terrace Churches Food Bank and the All Nations Centre on Davis have also been active locally for a long period of time.

The question that needs to be asked is that at what point did the care and feeding of the needy officially become strictly a religious or volunteer responsibility?

Two weeks ago, the federal government announced a program distributing more than $112 million to 61 mostly larger communities across Canada identified as having extreme homelessness issues. Sadly, Terrace was not on the list, nor were any northern B.C. communities represented other than Prince George.

There were also monies made available for initiatives to support rural and remote homelessness and additional monies targeted to aboriginal specific issues. Last week, the provincial government announced $50 million specifically targeted toward aboriginal housing issues.

To date there is no indication where this money will be spent, but from the great silence in local and online media, there doesn’t seem to be an outcry from this area to attract some of this substantial funding.

Internet searches over the past year reveal no press releases, speeches or commentary publicly available from our local senior elected officials, either provincial or federal,

While money is becoming available from multiple sources, both offices remained silent, at least as far as publicly available media information would reveal.

Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin’s office was also curiously absent from the conversation regarding the rezoning application, especially since housing is a provincial responsibility.

Perhaps these types of things are handled differently and discretely behind closed doors, but speaking from past experience, most politicians normally beat the drums a lot louder when they become involved in matters of this importance.

Regardless, the question remains; why is the care and support of our most vulnerable citizens left in the hands of volunteer boards, church groups and well-meaning individuals?

Where is the support, co-operation and most importantly, leadership of our senior governments?

Why is it that the level of government least equipped to handle it is left to provide shelter and lodging for homeless families and individuals?

And why, if our homeless numbers are growing at such an alarming rate, isn’t someone in a position of elected responsibility screaming at those senior governments from the rooftops about it?

Locally, the city’s homelessness task force is doing the best they can with the limited mandate they are dealing with.

Its last report identified gaps in the system but, as it wasn’t in their mandate, no innovative or creative solutions.

There are remarkable things happening in communities across B.C. and across Canada. I, and others, urge our the city to fully empower its homelessness committee to investigate them in detail and perhaps try implement at least some of them locally, preferably before winter sets in.

I commend those who are trying their best, sometimes, with their hands tied, to make a difference in our community. Let’s not let this drop or push it to the back burner as we have in the past. People’s lives depend on our choices.

Steve Smyth is a past director of the Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society and a current director of the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce.

Just Posted

Suspected methamphetamine and scale seized by police. (Terrace RCMP photo)
Terrace RCMP seize guns, ammo, suspected narcotics

Man released after court appearance

Caledonia Secondary School is the recipient of a $50,000 grant to replace its aging science equipment. (File photo)
Cal snags major grant to modernize science equipment

The $50,000 comes from a pharmaceutical company

Unemployment rate drops in northwestern B.C.

Large improvement since Spring 2020

Uplands Nursery this year will do all of the 4600 Block of Lazelle Ave., beginning at its east end, and a portion of the 4700 Block. (File photo)
Lazelle sidewalk project begins June 14

Improvements coming to 4600 and 4700 Blocks

Cassie Hall Elementary School students pose for a picture in their garden. Since 2019, students and staff at the school have been attending to the garden project. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
Cassie Hall students grow a green sanctuary at school

The K-6 elementary school students and staff have been working on the garden project since 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read