The father of Steven Furness, one of four victims of the 2022 mass shooting in Langley City and Township, urged Langley City council Monday to help create a safe space for homeless people.
“We all bring our pets in for the evening, but we leave our homeless out in the rain. This is wrong,” Stewart Furness told councillors at the Jan. 16 meeting.
While municipal powers are limited when it comes to homelessness, Furness told council that it could help homeless people by renting space for a low-barrier homeless shelter as a “stopgap” measure, and by adjusting zoning and bylaw regulations to make it possible.
Furness hopes to arrange financing for operation of a shelter, tentatively named “Steve’s Place,” from individuals and churches in the community.
“My personal experience is that there are less than 100 people sleeping in tents and doorways in Langley City,” Furness said. “This is the group that we need to help, as soon as possible.”
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Steven Furness, 43, was shot and killed at the bus loop in downtown Langley City, while Paul David Wynn, 60, died outside Creek Stone Place, a supportive housing project for formerly homeless people in a series of shootings apparently targeting the homeless. Two other people were wounded, but survived.
The man responsible was shot and killed later that morning by police.
During his presentation to council, Steven’s father, Stewart, said existing “zoning and bylaws create obstacles to changes that are needed,” citing instances where bylaw officers prevented a church from providing homeless people with a place to stay, and another instance where he said a local charity was fined $800 for handing out sandwiches to homeless people near the local casino.
While Langley City’s homeless problem is relatively small compared to some other communities, “even 100 people living on the street is too many,” Furness declared.
The Langley-area resident challenged what he called the “myth” that homeless in Langley City are outsiders, saying his experience is that most – like his son – are local residents.
Furness said the proposed shelter would augment the local Gateway of Hope homeless shelter.
While he praised staff at Gateway for their efforts, he noted it has been at capacity for years, and he believes the shelter rules have created a “clash of culture” with some homeless people – ultimately keeping them on the street.
His suggestion is to create a temporary low-barrier space by renting a warehouse or commercial space that could also double as a warming centre.
Furness said he was appealing to council for help, because it will take him at least six months to set up a charity.
“I’m stuck. I can’t do anything,” he advised. “I would just like to see something moving.
“We can’t do very much because of the bylaws.”
Mayor Nathan Pachal promised council would review the Furness proposal.
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