A mother has come forward with another instance of a homeless person being discharged from hospital and sent by taxi to a shelter in a community far away.
Rina Gallo, who lives in Surrey, said she received a call from her son, Steven, right before Christmas. She said he told her he was at Langley Memorial Hospital and that he was being discharged via taxi to Hope.
“He was scared, he was very scared, but he called me when he got there,” said Rina during a recent phone interview.
The Hope Standard confirmed Steven was a client at the House of Hope Emergency Shelter, but was not able to confirm how he got there. However, his mother was emphatic he was delivered by a cab hired by the staff at Langley Memorial Hospital.
“I spoke with the social worker at the time and she said he had to go,” Rina said. “And I said, ‘That’s not where he lives.’ They took him from his family, his baby. They took him from his entire family.”
She said Steven, who lives in Surrey, missed the birth of his first child, a boy, on Jan. 8 because he was at the Hope shelter.
“My son has drug issues, and they had highly medicated him because he can get violent. He even tried committing suicide while in there. I’m surprised Langley Memorial released him at all,” she said.
This is the latest case, and the second such one in Hope, of the Fraser Health Authority taxiing discharged homeless patients that are deemed medically stable to shelters in communities not their own.
Last month, Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove wrote to Fraser Health, demanding to know why two patients had been discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent by taxi to a Chilliwack shelter, especially when they still needed medical care. Fraser Health said staff are taking his concerns “very seriously” and that every effort is made to find patients suitable housing, but that sometimes these transfers occur.
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said it’s time for a regional approach to the complex issue – for communities and Fraser Health to find a solution together, rather than sending homeless people from one place to another and never dealing with the problem directly.
“We all have a responsibility to care for our most vulnerable,” Tegart said. “When we’re shipping people who are leaving the hospital and have no place to go, it’s unbelievable to think about it for the amount of dollars we spend.”
She said the Fraser Valley Regional District is already discussing a plan, and that Hope Mayor Peter Robb plans to take the issue to its hospital board.