RICHMOND (NEWS1130) – People tend to associate homelessness with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but it has quietly become a growing problem in the suburbs in recent years.

The Homeless Coalition of Richmond has noticed a huge gap in services for those with nowhere else to go. Some gather at a McDonalds or the public library, but advocates say these are only places where they are tolerated, yet not accepted.

Dianne Woodhouse with the Drop In Centre Action Group says the problem really came into focus for her when she volunteered at the Extreme Weather Shelter at St. Alban Church.

“It became apparent that we probably have in and around 50 homeless and no fixed address folks here in Richmond. It became evident to the City as well, which formed the [Homeless Coalition Group] last year. The action group for the drop-in centre, which I chair, has come out of that,” she explains.

Woodhouse wants to see the facility located in the city’s downtown core.

“The target population are those people with mental health concerns, people with physical health concerns, those folks who misuse alcohol, drugs or other substances, those who have learning disabilities and people that are of vulnerable age groups and, of course, new Canadians.”

Woodhouse says initially, the centre would be located in a temporary space and offer a few basic services. “[It] will offer friendship and support, respect, people that will listen, coffee, maybe the attention of some health care needs by referring them to the appropriate places and access to a computer, access to a post office box.”

She also hopes it will be a safe and discreet place where people can get the help they need, as many of Richmond’s homeless tend to fly under the radar. “These people don’t want to be counted, they don’t want to be noticed.”

“There is one gentleman last year, his wife left him,” she recalls. “He was living under a bridge with his two children… There’s no way he wanted to be identified because the first thing that would happen is his children would be removed.”

The aim is to open the drop-in facility by this October and the action group already has the support of all three of Richmond’s MLAs.

Besides a location, they also need cash; that’s why a fundraising concert is also in the works.