A plan to set up two portable classrooms in Langford as temporary shelters for homeless youth is falling apart over municipal red tape.
West Shore Youth Housing Task Force chair Bill McElroy said he is selling the two portables purchased in August because the City of
Langford said the process to get permission to install the portables would take eight months to a year to complete and would cost $4,000, and even then would come down to a council decision.
In the meantime moving the portables and storing them would cost the group money it doesn’t have.
“I said ‘I haven’t got that much time,’” McElroy said. “I’m not too happy but you have to deal with reality.”
After an article in the Gazette in August,
McElroy said four people approached him wanting to help with the project, but nobody came forward with an offer of land for the portables.
Even if land was on the table the process to get it rezoned proved too daunting to the group. McElroy spoke to
Langford’s planning department and said he didn’t get very far.
“I didn’t get a sense this guy said ‘we’re going to really put our heads together over here and figure out a way to make this work,’” McElroy said. “It was, ‘you apply and then when we get the application we’ll look at it.’ I don’t think that’s a reasonable gamble.”
The predicted wait time is typical, said Langford Coun. Lillian Spzak, especially considering that the area hasn’t zoned land for shelters or assisted accommodation to date. “What it comes down to is that there is a process that needs to be followed within the limits of the municipal act,” said Spzak.
Though the project seems to have hit a hiccup, Spzak noted that the city is in support of community needs and assisting young people. “The next step for them may be to speak to the Juan de Fuca Parks and Recreation, or co-locate on school board land. These places have a synergy and would work well together,” she suggested.
McElroy said estimates suggest there are around 20 youths on any given night sleeping alongside the Galloping Goose Trail, by Langford Lake or couch surfing.
The task force plans to go back to the primary plan of finding a house to rent which would require permanent funding, the linch pin to the initiative, McElroy said.
Another option to explore is to co-ordinate pairing up homeless youth with residents that have rooms to rent. McElroy said policy would have to be established to assure safety.
“We’ll find something,” McElroy said, “because there’s still kids out there looking for a place to stay and the cold weather is coming. It’s just a hiccup.”
To help, email McElroy at email@example.com. To donate, call the Pacific Centre Family Services Association at 250-478-8357.