Letter: Homeless scaring away some Burnaby residents


A recent letter writer has misunderstood the concerns of a woman living in the neighborhood adjacent to the Beresford Warming Centre.

Residents are concerned that the BC Recreation and Parks Association has awarded the City of Burnaby an award for the warming centres as only a place to stay overnight is offered. 

Folks staying in them overnight are required to leave in the morning and there is significant problematic impact which includes those in the neighborhood adjacent to the Beresford Warming Centre. 

Folks who have stayed at the Beresford Warming Centre have led to area residents and others avoiding walking and cycling on the BC Parkway due to some folks gathered there and feces, used syringes and other items left behind, reducing recreation on and in the area of the BC Parkway. 

Some who have stayed in the warming centre have been seen stumbling about and looking very unwell/under the influence of illegal drugs shortly after leaving in the morning. 

As a retired nurse who worked at a time when treatment was provided for those with mental illness and when we did not have so very many homeless folks nor those addicted to illicit drugs/self-medicating, I have always had concerns about people being provided overnight shelter and then sent out in the morning no matter what the weather is or if they have the means to have a meal through the day yet drug dealers knowing where to find those seeking drugs. 

Having the money to rent a home is sadly not something too many folks can even remotely access.

Through several years of hard work, the Norland Avenue Supportive Housing, which provides help including to support mental health and substance abuse issues, was opened this past November 2019, the City of Burnaby being a key partner in this. 

We need to care about the homeless and those also struggling with mental illness and substance abuse as people, not just issues we can separate away and effectively address. 

 And we need to acknowledge that others in our communities experience problems and crime relating to homelessness and untreated mental illness and addiction/self-medicating. 

I find those living and working in the neighbourhoods adjacent to the Beresford Warming Centre, including the woman who shared neighbourhood experiences and concerns and identified those in the area having their “neighbourhood back,” to be empathetic about the concerns of those staying at the centre overnight, even though while it was open they could not enjoy their own neighbourhood due to, for example, used syringes where they, their children or pets normally travel; theft from vehicles in a strata building at a level that residents thought a marked Burnaby RCMP vehicle parked at their building overnight was warranted.

Many of us have for years advocated, and continue to advocate for accessible, effective treatment for those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse/self-medicating and currently liaise with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, which was formed in 2017.

While we work toward adequate help for all we must be mindful of community and safety for all. 

Some of those walking in the area of BC Parkway east from the Beresford Warming Centre are in addition to residents and those working in the area, students at Burnaby South/Provincial School for the Deaf. We must also consider their safety. At this unprecedented time I hope we can all do our best to consider and respect all in our communities which some of us know from experiences

Diane Gillis, Burnaby

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