Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

DOERKSON: Better supports needed for vulnerable British Columbians

MLA Lorne Doerkson’s column to the Free Press

In the midst of so many ongoing challenges in B.C., I was shocked and saddened to read the latest report from the BC Coroners Service last week. The report was an examination of the deaths of people experiencing homelessness in B.C. in 2021, and it revealed that our province saw a 75 per cent increase in deaths among the homeless population last year. It’s a deeply troubling piece of information, and one that should spark outrage and some sort of action to ensure the safety of all British Columbians.

Many of these deaths were found to be the result of the toxic drug crisis that is plaguing so many B.C. communities, including right here in the Cariboo. For others, the cause of death was not quite as clear. But one thing is certain, and that is we are not doing enough to support our most vulnerable.

As we know from last year’s homeless count, B.C. recently saw an 11.5 per cent increase in people experiencing homelessness, despite the current government’s years of promises to improve affordability and build the housing that people need.

The NDP spent years talking about building more affordable and complex care housing for people, but it has yet to materialize. Meanwhile, more and more people are finding themselves unable to make ends meet and ending up on the streets as life becomes more unaffordable.

The lack of action, and lack of progress from government is putting more lives at risk, and far too often, when government fails to deliver on its commitments, it is vulnerable British Columbians who end up paying the price.

Instead of words of sympathy and understanding, people in our communities need to see concrete steps to make lasting change. This means, drastically increasing the supply of housing across the entire spectrum, including supportive housing, while also increasing supports for society’s most vulnerable. Measures must include full wrap-around supports for those suffering from mental health and addiction issues, as well as steps to improve affordability and keep our streets safe.

These actions will be especially important in rural B.C., where there are fewer existing supports available to those experiencing homelessness, and where climate and geographic realities put people at greater risk. It is challenging enough to be unhoused when it is warm outside, but it is genuinely life-threatening when it is -20 C with a foot of snow on the ground.

But no matter where in B.C. you live, it’s clear that the results of the last few years of government policy have not led to better outcomes for our most vulnerable. Government must confront this reality and work to ensure that all British Columbians have access to the care, support, and housing they need.

Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding


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