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Seniors group looking for solution to issue of mentally ill in Langley housing project

Langley Times - 1/25/2018

A Langley City housing complex that was originally built to accommodate seniors and people with disabilities has become home to some mentally ill people and recovering addicts who act out and frighten the other residents, a meeting of the Langley Seniors Community Action Table (LSCAT) was told Wednesday.

"Very young, hard-to-house young males, who are severely mentally ill" is how one resident, who asked not to be named, described the situation involving mental health and addictions patients whose rent is paid by health authorities.

Police often have to be called to deal with unruly behavior, but because case workers get involved, the tenants don't get evicted, the renter said.

"A lot of our seniors have moved out."

Another resident, who also asked for anonymity, said the housing complex is being used to provide homes to people that other landlords have refused.

"They're bringing in mentally challenged people even as we speak," the tenant said.

"It's been going on for years."

The tenants said their complaints have resulted in the housing managers hiring a single night-time security guard, a move one dismissed as "totally inadequate."

They were among a small group of residents from the seven buildings operated by the Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society (LLSCHS) who attended the action table meeting at the Langley Senior Resources Society centre to hear a report on the situation by the chair of the action table housing committee, Kiernan Hillan.

Hillan and action table member Leslie Gaudette said a Jan. 17 meeting with all involved, including the management of the complex, the different aid agencies and tenants, did made some progress, but finding a quick solution was unlikely.

"The complexity of the situation became evident (at the Jan. 17 meeting)," Hillan said.

"That was the first time representatives of all of the agencies were in the same room, which was kind of surprising."

Gaudette said tenants presented a proposal at the meeting that she called "very solid" without going into detail.

Hillan said the proposal referred to "safety-based" solutions.

The talks involving the various groups have been "extremely positive" since the action table reached out in December, Gaudette said.

"People have different levels of understanding, but they know that something needs to be done," she said.

"There has been a lot of stuff happening in a very short time," Hillan said.

Hillan said he hopes the issue can be resolved "relatively quickly (but) it may require some patience."

Some of the residents expressed frustration at that, saying they have been dealing with problems of bad behaviour far too long.

"Our patience is wearing a little thin," one said.

The residents reported incidents of loud outbursts in common area and one incident where a patient reportedly kicked washing machine while a senior was trying to do laundry.

"My building is probably the most attended (by police) in Langley City," one said.

Gaudette said it appeared the different agencies were operating in isolation, unaware of the impact their activity can have on other stakeholders.

She said the problem at the Lions is the result of increased demand for social housing at a time when hardly any new stock is being built.

"You have a growing population with growing needs and nowhere to go," Gaudette said.

Another action-table-brokered stakeholders meeting is expected in about two weeks. Hillan said he hopes more tenants will take part.

The Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society (LLSCHS) did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Times.

The action table is a group of community members, service organizations and individuals that has the stated goal of facilitating "seniors' mobilization, leadership and involvement" in the community and to "recognize and respond to local issue and opportunities."

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