Details for a homeless shelter in Cranbrook are still being finalized, following the rezoning of a property near the downtown core earlier this month.
With the property’s land-use approved for homeless shelter operations, the Community Connections Society of Southeast BC and BC Housing are working out logistical details for the shelter space and an operational budget.
Once details are finalized, BC Housing is looking to sign a three-year agreement with the CCSSBC to facilitate shelter operations, with options for two one-year term renewals.
“Right now, the next step for me is to meet with an architect and go through what we need to get out of that building and what changes need to be made,” said Nancy Reid, the executive director of the CCSSBC.
The CCSSBC office is directly beside the proposed shelter space, which was previously utilized as a commercial fitness centre.
Reid adds there will be a need for more washers, dryers and shower stalls, while the kitchen in the CCSSBC will be repurposed for the shelter kitchen, which will require further architectural decisions in order to maintain a single point of access for the building.
The initial plan is to have at least 40 pod spaces, each with a bed and pony walls. However, more could be added, depending on discussions with the architect. The pods are a design born out of COVID-19 directives from the provincial government that allow for physical distancing while providing a bed in a shelter space.
Reid hopes to hire approximately 22 staff, including cooks, team leads and frontline staff for 24/7 operations when the shelter opens.
The homeless shelter proposal took form nearly a year ago during a BC Housing point-in-time homeless count in Cranbrook, as Reid floated the idea to BC Housing officials who were in town for the count, knowing that the proposed space would be available.
The building and adjacent property is owned by Terry Segarty, which used to house a local bingo hall before CCSSBC moved in approximately a decade ago, along with a variety of non-profit organizations.
“The organization there has matured, has done a really, really good job in helping a variety of individuals with different and special needs,” said Segarty, in an interview with the Townsman.
Segarty said Reid approached him about renting the vacated space last summer, to be used as part of a homeless shelter operation. He gave his support to the proposal, and applied to the City of Cranbrook for a zoning amendment that would permit a homeless shelter operation.
Segarty disputed Mayor Lee Pratt’s comments during discussions on the zoning amendment that he had an agreement in place with BC Housing before approaching the city.
“That could not be further from the truth,” Segarty said. “Nancy Reid, the executive director of the Community Connections Society [of Southeast BC] is the one who approached me and she made the recommendation to BC Housing and told them I’d be prepared to do that, so long as I could make an application for zoning.
“The application for zoning is not that expensive. The zoning can be changed by me at anytime in the future, and the implication that the mayor is saying — that because of my former position as an MLA that somehow or another I had an inside track on this — could not be further from the truth.”
Segarty said he had other parties interested in leasing the space, but wished to honour his commitment with the CCSSBC. He also pointed out the number of social services and programs housed in the same space.
“To me, BC Housing has made a wise choice in the short-term looking at the vacant space there where people with a variety of different issues can get shelter, food, counselling and a whole range of other things,” Segarty said.
A lease agreement has not yet been signed, as Segarty is waiting on reports from Reid and local RCMP about success and failure rates for homeless shelters in communities across the province. Once that information comes in, and any recommended changes are addressed. Segarty says he will then sign a lease agreement.
“I would hope at the end of the day, we would make this one of the best shelters and operations in British Columbia,” Segarty said.