The homeless encampment at Empress Lane downtown Chilliwack is gone and now many are asking

CEO of Fraser Health says region shortchanged on supportive housing

Michael Marchbank wrote letter to head of BC Housing pointing out Vancouver Coastal has 13 times more housing than Fraser

While the provincial government via BC Housing has recently stepped up with $17 million in funding for two affordable housing projects in Chilliwack as part of $500 million across B.C., the head of Fraser Health says the region has a fraction of the supportive housing available in Metro Vancouver.

And that is with not a hugely disparate number of homeless people.

In a letter to the CEO of BC Housing Shayne Ramsay, dated before the recent housing announcements, Fraser Health CEO and President Michael Marchbank said there are 13 times more rooms available by way of supportive housing in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region than in the Fraser Health region.

BC Housing’s own numbers say there are 2,731 rooms available in the VCH region compared to 214 in Fraser Health (FH).

“The homeless counts between the two regions are not as drastically different,” Marchbank wrote in an Oct. 25 letter. “The 2014 Metro Vancouver homeless count found 1,960 homeless in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley Regional District reported 1,163 homeless in the Fraser Health region for 2014.”

On Tuesday, the province formally announced more than half a billion dollars in 68 affordable housing projects across the province. The money was previously announced months ago, and two specific projects for Chilliwack were announced earlier this month. Chilliwack MLAs announced $11 million for an 80-unit project on Yale Road to be headed up by the Mamele’awt Qweesome Housing Society, and then $6 million for a 35-unit affordable housing project for families at Ruth & Naomi’s.

These are important but won’t help with what Marchbank called “critical shortages of emergency shelter beds and supportive/transitional housing facilities across Fraser Health.”

“We urge you to immediately examine opportunities to increase housing facilities and support services for our communities,” Marchbank wrote.