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Proposed homeless shelter gathering steam

Cranbrook’s Homeless Shelter Coalition, in partnership with the Salvation Army, is picking up momentum and moving forward with a plan to build a homeless shelter in Cranbrook.
Pictured are architectual drawings of a similar homeless shelter built in Chilliwack. The Savlation Army is spearheading a proposal to build a homeless shelter in Cranbrook.

Cranbrook’s Homeless Shelter Coalition, in partnership with the Salvation Army, is picking up momentum and moving forward with a plan to build a homeless shelter in Cranbrook.

A new design for the shelter is being pursued that is simpler than the one initially envisioned, but a fraction of the cost while still meeting the needs of the community, says Major Kirk Green, Salvation Army.

“The Salvation Army recently built a homeless shelter in Chilliwack similar to what we want to do in Cranbrook,” said Green. “So, we’re working with the Salvation Army on a national level to bring them on board with supporting a homeless shelter build in Cranbrook, and we’ve engaged with the architect of the Chilliwack shelter and asked him to draw up plans specific to our needs and location. We’re also working closely with our government partners on all levels to move this forward.”

The revised proposed homeless shelter design features a 12-person homeless shelter space as well as 36 transitional housing spaces, for both men and women. It would be constructed with moveable interlocking units that could increase or decrease in size to accommodate the fluctuating capacity needs of the men, women and families, in a safe and secure way.

“We want the community to know this process has not become stagnant, and there is in fact renewal of hope and forward motion with a plan,” says Neil Cook, Homeless Shelter Coalition member. “We’ve got the land, we’ve got all the geotechnical studies completed, we’ve done public meetings and held consultations with councils, we’ve confirmed there is access for municipal services on both sides of the lot and we’ve got support from the City of Cranbrook.”

Green adds that there is very much a need for a homeless shelter in the city.

“We also have a 118-page feasibility and homelessness analysis of the area that concludes there is a local need,” he said. “The RDEK has continued to give us money in support of the project as recently as this past spring. More than $250,000 has been raised by the community for a homeless shelter. A lot of boxes have been checked off in the preliminary phase.”

One of the reoccurring comments the Homeless Shelter Coalition has frequently been asked to address is the concern that a homeless shelter will attract or import needy people to the community.

“The folks this shelter is designed for are here right now,” says Green. “They are sleeping on the bench in a park, or an abandoned building, or in a tent or on someone’s couch. Cranbrook is a regional centre. People come here because there is a bus system, the regional hospital and mental health services, and because government programs and services are accessible here. What we don’t have is housing to support them after they’ve arrived.”

Once the architect’s plans are developed, reviewed and approved, the next step is to take all the information gathered over the last eight years, as well as the projected building costs and annual operations costs, and present it to BC Housing, along with letters of support from the community expressing a unified, collective voice in favour of the homeless shelter.

“Reach out to your city council, the MLA, and the MP,” says Green. “Let them know we need this, and we want this. Write letters of support and get them to us. And if anyone interested in coming together and helping they are invited to the table.”