Skip to content

Council between a rock and a hard place on homelessness

Social Planning Society works toward trauma-informed solutions

Most of our town residents are aware of the complications town council is facing attempting to find a solution with the current issues around homeless people.

We had a council meeting in the Reformed Church gym a few weeks back. Council needed more space to accommodate all those wanting their say or just interested in an outcome. Unfortunately, this is not a simple issue and throughout the province, and around the country, municipal councils are grappling with similar situations.

Homelessness has been and is becoming even more of a major problem. Addictions and mental health are factors contributing to the problems. The country does not have a universal mental health mandate.

The consensus from the meeting as I perceived it to be was somewhat universal: we feel sorry and concerned for the people, but we do not want them in our backyard. We do not have a solution for you, but we need you, council, to fix the problem.

So, what is to be done?

A couple of weeks after the said council meeting I was invited by this group, B.V. Social Planning Society, to come down to the Salvation Army building around 11 a.m. Wednesday for lunch and an informal meet and greet. I thought that might be a really good idea. Try and put names to faces so that each person experiencing homelessness could give you a part of their story.

So, I accepted, and I was pleasantly surprised that each person I did meet was not an axe murderer but just someone who may have made a lot of wrong decisions or did not have a job or could not navigate the education system very well.

They were just humans struggling to meet their daily problems to the best of their ability.

I got a chance to catch up with the project coordinator, Cheryl Hofweber, and asked her what the planning society was attempting to do. She gave me a short historical outline dating back to 2015-2018 when the provincial government offered to provide some funding to 64 communities throughout B.C. willing to engage Action Teams at the grassroots level seeking solutions. Smithers was selected and the society stepped up attempting to improve networking between mental health services, educators, parents and youth.

As the provincial funding was a short-term initiative, the society wanted to continue this work and received a grant from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in conjunction with the town. The society based their approach on the work of Dr. Gabor Mate and others.

The film “The Wisdom of Trauma” was presented twice at the Della Herman Theatre and seen by more than 600 people demonstrating that there are many people in the community who care and want to know how to help.

The film fostered an understanding of the long-term impacts of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. This video is now available at the public library. Following the film and panel discussions a group of volunteers began working together calling themselves the Wisdom of Trauma Follow-up Team.

The goal is to help Smithers become a more connected and compassionate community by providing awareness of the challenges some of our unsheltered residents face.

Our key message: Trauma is not just what happened to you, it’s also what happened inside of you.

Certainly, we want to encourage low-income housing and sheltering facilities but we also want to connect with those who struggle with meeting the basics of life and to learn from them what is needed to help themselves overcome their challenges.

If anybody from the community wants to be involved in this society, they can contact Cheryl through the email,