Three Crises Response Pilot Project

About the Project

Like many municipalities in Metro Vancouver, the City of New Westminster is trying to find compassionate, innovative, and goal-driven ways to address three particular crises:

  • Homelessness
  • Mental health
  • Addictions

The goal of this pilot is to advance proactive, resilient and strategic organizational approaches that can be used long-term. The project involves three inter-departmental staff teams.

  • The Crises Response Team. This team addresses community requests and complaints. They will also provide supports to those who are experiencing homelessness and/or navigating mental health and/or addictions. Its members are able to provide referrals to provincial teams, as well as faith-based and not-for-profit partners in the community. 
  • Operations Support Team. This team is made up almost exclusively of existing City staff. Their goal is to help provide guidance as needed in their areas of expertise. 
  • Policy Development and Advocacy Team. This team will lobby senior levels of government for additional funding, resources and supports, which are needed to sustainably address the needs and issues associated with the three crises. The bulk of this team is comprised of existing City staff.

The pilot project's approach is trauma-informed and culturally sensitive. It considers a variety of experiences: along with those who are directly impacted, it acknowledges the impacts to City staff, and the community as a whole.

The project will be guided by principles of preventing further harm, prioritizing safety and well-being, and being proactive and responsive. 

Some of the work undertaken in this project as of July 2024:

  • Engagement with Indigenous organizations and First Nations groups
  • Day-to-day outreach, proactive and reactive, via the Crises Response Outreach Team
  • Continued work to connect with businesses and residents in New Westminster through a variety of community partners and channels

Goals & Advocacy Actions

  • An extreme weather response shelter with up to 30 beds
  • A 24/7 shelter with 50 to 60 beds that also offers support services
  • A health connect and resource centre with a health and wellness focus addressing the needs of the unsheltered, including needs related to case management
  • A supportive housing development with 50 to 60 units, including 10 complex care beds to support people with significant mental health and substance use issues
  • Expanded outreach related to homelessness, mental health and overdose prevention
  • Extended hours for the Health Contact Centre, which incorporates an overdose prevention site, and the addition of an inhalation component
  • Restoration of medical services, including related to addiction, at the Health Contact Centre; and
  • Provision of a 24/7 sanitation trailer and reimbursement of funding for portable toilet services and bio-hazardous clean-up and disposal 

Additional Information

  • Why is this pilot project needed?

    Like other municipalities in Metro Vancouver, New Westminster is facing three crises of homelessness, mental health, and substance use.

    These are complex, inter-related situations challenging each level of government; they were further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing opioid epidemic.

    While the City has been active in addressing these crises, a more comprehensive strategy is needed to make progress. One of the highlights of this project includes a dedicated and trained team of staff working with local faith-based, not-for-profit, and provincial organizations and teams. Our work is informed, in part, by the Homelessness Action Strategy. 

    How do I contact the Crises Response Team?

    The Crises Response Team is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. They can be reached via email or by phone.

    Email: outreach@newwestcity.ca
    Phone: 604-636-4343

    When should I reach out to the Crises Response Team?

    Do connect with the Crises Response Team for the following:

    • If someone in the community is in need of resources related to food or shelter
    • If you see a tent or structure in the community
       

    If we are unable to assist, we will do our best to provide contact information for those who may be able to better respond.

    I am a business. How am I able to keep up with what's happening with the pilot project?

    The City will share the most up-to-date information through this page, and anyone interested will be able to sign up for email updates in the near future.  

    We are also working with a number of partners in the community to let business owners know we are available to assist them in the context of this pilot. 

    You can also watch for updates through the City's social media channels. 


    I am a resident. How am I able to keep track of what's happening with the pilot project?

    Along with signing up for email updates, you can find the most up-to-date information on the pilot via this web page, or through our social media channels.


    Are large homeless encampments an issue in New Westminster?

    New Westminster has not experienced large homeless encampments, which have been seen in other municipalities. Overnight sheltering of one or two people in parks and public spaces tends to be more of an issue. Those sheltering outside receive a notification to dismantle each morning, and are provided with information and referral services.

    As part of the Crises Response Team, outreach workers will provide additional assistance and support. Over time, they will build relationships and trust, which can help with voluntary cooperation.


    Are there plans to turn the nightly shelter into a 24/7 shelter in the near future?

    The Lower Mainland Purpose Society is exploring a three-year lease extension for the former Army & Navy Department Store.

    Of note, the existing lease terminates in November 2025. This lease extension is necessary for BC Housing to justify the costs of building upgrades to facilitate a 24/7 shelter. The building owner will also have to be receptive to permitting a 24/7 shelter.

    In the interim, the City continues to work with BC Housing on a permanent 24/7 shelter with support services.


    What is the status of public showers and toilets in New Westminster?

    As of July 2024, there is a dedicated space in the City with showers, sinks, and toilets. It is located near the current nightly shelter (at the former Army & Navy site). This space was obtained in partnership with BC Housing.

    BC Housing is expected to cover costs related to this project, including maintenance, cleaning, and attendant services.

    Access to public washrooms is an issue for municipalities across BC. The City has created a guide, which includes a map, to public washrooms in New Westminster. Hours of operation at these sites may vary from season to season.


    If you develop more housing, shelter and supports to address the three crises, will it just attract more people who are unhoused?

    Most of those who are unhoused have long-term ties to New Westminster.

    Based on the 2023 Point-in-Time Homeless Count, 19% had lived in New Westminster for one to five years and 44% had lived in New Westminster for six or more years. Combined, this accounts for 63% of those who are unhoused. As such, and within the time periods in question, 37% of those who were unhoused relocated to New Westminster.

    By comparison, between 2016 and 2021 and based on the 2021 Census, 36% of all residents had relocated to New Westminster. This indicates those who are unhoused are not as transient as some believe, and that connections to a variety of support networks are important.


    What are the plans to address the needs of the daytime unhoused population?

    Given the lack of 24/7 shelter and supportive housing capacity, the daytime unhoused population numbers at least 120 people in New Westminster. Of note, the daytime is when businesses are typically operating and residents are circulating.

    The City is exploring the possibility of creating a Health Connect and Resource Centre, which could address a variety of needs including:

    • Access to laundry facilities, showers and toilets
    • Providing meal programming and nutritional advice
    • Accommodating provincial health outreach teams
    • Offering primary care and substance use services
    • Providing resource information, referral services, navigation assistance and outreach support

     

    The City and the Lower Mainland Purpose Society are also in discussions with the Fraser Health Authority in the hopes of extending hours for the Health Contact Centre.

    If these two objectives are realized, many of those who make up the daytime unhoused population will be brought inside. These spaces would also provide opportunities to meet their diverse needs and address the underlying issues which could be contributing to their experiencing homelessness.

    Why does the Crises Response Pilot Project place an emphasis on ensuring culturally-appropriate and trauma-informed responses, particularly related to Indigenous peoples?


    There is a significant over-representation of enumerated, self-identified Indigenous people among the unhoused in New Westminster. While Indigenous people represent 3.1% of the population in New Westminster, they represent 43% of the enumerated, unsheltered homeless and 12% of the enumerated, sheltered homeless.

    This discrepancy may indicate shelter services and supports are not culturally sensitive or responsive to the needs of those who self-identify as Indigenous. Of note, of the enumerated, self-identified, unhoused Indigenous persons, 58% self-reported that they or a family member had experienced residential schools. This may indicate a mistrust of government-funded services and institutional-like settings.