Plans for a permanent year-round homeless shelter in Cranbrook remain in development, according to BC Housing officials who updated city council on Monday evening, Dec. 5.
The crown corporation continues to investigate options and hopes to announce a land purchase or long-term lease sometime in the next calendar year.
That’s despite city council’s zoning approval of a site at 16th Ave N nearly two years ago, which needed significant renovations in order to facilitate homeless shelter operations.
The renovations would have transformed a former fitness gym into an area for approximately 40 sleeping pods, along with other shelter amenities such as a kitchen for meal prep and washrooms.
So what happened?
The scale of the renovations for a leased site were proving too costly, according to Tyler Baker, Director of Regional Development, BC Housing.
“That turned out to cost-prohibitive, in terms of a leased space — the amount of renovations that would be required,” Baker said. “We put that option on pause while we looked at some other, more long-term options in the community.”
Baker added that BC Housing will begin the development process and consult with the community once there’s a land purchase or a long-term lease signed in the coming months.
“We are confident we will have a site identified shortly and we will get back to the community so that we have an update about the outcome of that [16th Ave N] rezoning process, because we do know that was a difficult decision that the community and council made,” Baker said.
“We will be communicating, once we have a site identified, with the wider community.”
A permanent year-round shelter was one of a few housing gaps identified in a housing needs report produced by the city two years ago.
That same report also identified additional gaps for transitional housing, supportive housing and social housing in Cranbrook.
BC Housing has different programs and funding streams across the housing continuum, from housing with support services to affordable rental housing.
While planning for a permanent shelter space remains ongoing, operations remain underway at the Travelodge.
“Nobody views the Travelodge as the ideal situation, operating a shelter out of a hotel that is also open to the travelling public, so we are working to identify and operationalize a year-round shelter,” said Baker.
The Travelodge has been utilized as a temporary shelter for over two years, operated by Community Connections Society of Southeast BC staff and volunteers, who are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The non-profit currently operates 45 shelter beds, along with eight nightly drop-in beds.
Since April, the shelter has served 203 unique individuals for 11,500 nightly stays.
“I think sometimes the community gets the perception that it’s the same 40 or 50 people over and over again, but that’s not always the case,” said Nancy Reid, executive director of the Community Connections Society of Southeast BC.
The organization has also provided thousands of meals to shelter clients and drop-in guests, while also providing other necessities such as clothing.
Based on a recent survey of the city’s vulnerable population, Reid says roughly 86 per cent grew up in the Kootenay region.
“We’re the regional shelter — just like people come to the regional hospital, we’re the regional shelter,” Reid said.