Richmond council passed the city’s first homelessness strategy in 17 years, but not without public criticism and last-minute wordsmithing.

De Whalen with the Richmond Poverty Reduction Committee addressed council on Monday before the strategy was debated by council. She focused her criticism on four areas: seniors, outreach work, faith communities and the involvement of people with lived experience.

Whalen advocated drawing on the experiences of those who have been homeless, adding that it can’t be assumed that service providers have this expertise.

“People with lived experience are the experts in their own lives and should sit at tables making decisions about them,” she told council. “Unless they are included, these folks will continue to say ‘nothing about us without us.’”

She also pointed out seniors are the fastest growing demographic group falling into homelessness and that faith communities should be invited to advise on prevention and solutions to homelessness.