Letter: Closing Burnaby homeless centre means we get our neighbourhood back

Editor:

Re: Burnaby receives award for warming centres, NOW News

I am writing with the concern that BC Recreation and Parks Association has given this recognition to the city as the Beresford warming centre in particular has definitely deterred taxpaying folks from using the BC Parkway and thus discouraged recreation.

As a resident of this area, I look upon the Beresford warming centre with apprehension. I live within a few blocks of this warming centre, which is in a warehouse and not an arena, and would like to see it closed permanently.

It is in the middle of a residential and commercial area, east of the Royal Oak SkyTrain station.

This is a nice area to live in, but with this warming centre have come problems for those of us who live and work here. We have had to endure people from the warming centre using the BC Parkway path, under the SkyTrain tracks, as an outdoor toilet once the shelter has shut down at 8 a.m. 

I personally have seen some of them barely able to stand up and staggering under the tracks while they drop their syringes next to the BC Parkway path where many families ride their bikes and go for walks with their children and/or dogs.

Children have been seen playing among the shrubs, grass and SkyTrain supports. Then there’s the amount of garbage left behind. Everything from coffee cups to clothing and tarps to sleep under during the day.

Numerous auto repair businesses in that area have had expensive catalytic converters stolen from vehicles.

One business in particular has spent money to erect wire fencing around their property with barbed wire installed on the top. Someone still got in and stole the converters from customer vehicles.

On one occasion, I witnessed four RCMP vehicles at a spot next to the Beresford warming centre where people had settled in for the day, amongst the overgrowth, while the centre was closed.

The group also set up a barbecue. I watched as an RCMP officer put a large sledge hammer and bolt cutters into the trunk of his vehicle. I don’t believe this is standard equipment for police to carry.

Anyone using the warming centre appears to be free to come and go whenever they like during the opening hours of 8 p.m. at night to 8 a.m. the following morning. 

While it is great to help out the homeless and give them a warm and dry place to sleep, there are consequences for the residents and business owners in the same vicinity. Many people were reluctant to walk along the BC Parkway as they felt threatened and nervous by the goings on by the centre’s patrons.  

There is a nice seating area at the corner of MacPherson and Beresford, but I avoided it due to the homeless people, along with their buggies, bags, syringes and tarps, that congregated there during the trek from the centre to the SkyTrain station.

It is obvious that the people have mental health, addiction and housing issues and just giving them a warm place to sleep isn’t enough. Your article states that the staff help patrons with issues regarding access to mental health, addiction and housing supports. It would be interesting to know how many use that help because when the centre is open the issues I have mentioned happen every day. 

The people using the Beresford warming centre are not necessarily older people who, for whatever reason, are down on their luck, but in many cases they were young people. Is their future going to improve or 20 years from now will they be just another addicted or mentally ill person trudging to a warming centre to keep warm and dry?

Now that the Beresford warming centre is closed, we have our neighbourhood back and we don’t have to watch our backs walking and riding our bikes along the BC Parkway path and if there is a pile of anything on the grass area it’s from a large dog.

Susan Lee, Burnaby

 

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