Details for a proposed homeless shelter in Cranbrook are emerging following a public information session with BC Housing officials and advocates with local non-profit organizations on Wednesday night.
Over one hundred people tuned into the virtual information session, which included presentations from representatives from BC Housing, Community Connections Society of Southeast BC, and Operation Street Angel.
The proposed site, at 209 16th Ave N, features a large space formerly occupied by a fitness business and is adjacent to a number of offices and services that operate under the auspices of the CCSSBC.
The proposal includes approximately 40 sleeping pods in a facility that will be open and staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by CCSSBC. The shelter is meant as a place for temporary housing for clientele who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, providing meals, laundry and storage.
“Having a shelter connected to us is just the perfect fit,” said Nancy Reid, the executive director of the CCSSBC. “In addition to our extensive services, other community social service providers, the government agencies, medical services, law enforcement — they’re all in the downtown core here, and we also have public transportation right by us.”
It will be open for adults 19 years of age or older.
There is currently no formal shelter in Cranbrook, but there are a number of interconnected social, medical, and substance use services available agencies such as CCSSBC — ANKORS, Better at Home, Homeless Outreach and Prevention Program, among others — and Operation Street Angel.
“We have tenants who rent space from us and provide services with us and one of those is ANKORS,” said Reid. “They do a community drop-in space, harm-reduction supplies and peer-health navigators. We also have options for sexual health, Interior Health outreach and CCS in that location also offers walk-in counselling, Better at Home for seniors, and we also have a visiting office that a wide range of community partners use to meet with clients or offer group services here.”
BC Housing has secured funding that will be used for leasing the site, conducting any renovations that need to be done, and the facility’s operating budget. The crown corporation eyed that particular location because of the existing building owned by a landlord willing to sign a lease for space dedicated towards a homeless shelter and related services.
Through the lens of the opioid crisis, the shelter will have an internal overdose prevention space where there will be on-site monitoring for residents who use substance, as well as related harm reduction services, sterile needles, filters, cleaning items and safe disposal options.
Those internal overdose prevention services will be available only to shelter guests.
BC Housing officials are expected to be a delegation at the next city council on Monday, Jan. 18th to discuss the proposal in an open public meeting.
The lack of a permanent homeless shelter has been a long-running issue in Cranbrook and a housing gap that was recently identified in a housing needs study recently conducted by the city.
A local hotel on Cranbrook St., Travelodge, has 25 rooms available through a COVID-19 shelter response, a program traditionally operated by the Salvation Army, however, the organization was not able meet the COVID-19 requirements.
Of the 25 rooms, ten rooms are for on-call emergency beds if someone tested positive for COVID-19 or is awaiting the results of a test, while 15 rooms are available for cold-weather shelter through from November to March.
According to a point-in-time count conducted last year, there are 63 people who are homeless in Cranbrook — a significant increase of 29 that were counted in 2018. However, there are some potential underlying issues with point-in-time counts, which don’t necessarily catch situations such as someone who is ‘couch-surfing’ or living in a vehicle or another type of unsafe situation.
Diane Whitehead and Racheal Nicholas with Operation Street Angel shared the organization’s experience setting up nearly a decade ago, which generated a similar community debate around homeless issues, substance use and mental health that is currently swirling around the proposed homeless shelter.
“I know in 2010 when we were first opening, there was a lot of pushback and fear in the community as well, similar to the rezoning issue, that it’s close to a high school, it’s close to the skate park, it’s close to a lot of youth,” said Nicholas.
She added that the RCMP wrote a letter to the organization stating that there was a 65 per cent decrease in neighbourhood crime rates with petty crime and street-related crime after Operation Street Angel began providing services and outreach at it’s original 2nd St. N location, across the street from Mount Baker Secondary School.
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