During her visit to Powell River on Tuesday, January 24, BC premier Christy Clark said she was aware of the need for an emergency cold/wet weather shelter here and made assurances that BC Housing would work with local organizers to see it realized.
“I just found out that BC Housing has begun its work on an emergency shelter for Powell River and will have more details about where it will be and what it will look like starting in February,” said Clark in an exclusive interview with Peak publisher/editor Jason Schreurs.
A community housing group has been working for the last several weeks on plans to open a shelter located at the Salvation Army on Joyce Avenue and with equipment supplied by School District 47 and BC Ambulance Service.
According to the premier’s office, BC Housing has been working on the need for an emergency shelter along with the Salvation Army and Powell River Employment Program Society (PREP).
“I referred them straight to the Salvation Army because I didn’t want to be in the way,” said PREP executive director Lyn Adamson. “I called them for information, they called back and by that time the Salvation Army decided it would take the lead.”
BC Housing has had a conversation with the Salvation Army, according its captain, B.J. Loder. Earlier in the week, a representative of the crown corporation contacted the organization to gather further information, he said.
“My sense is that because their name has been out there with the story, they’re wanting to be a part of what’s expected of them,” said Loder. “They were pressing us for details.”
Loder said the Salvation Army had not yet submitted for BC Housing funding because it had not completed Powell River’s homeless count, a requirement for application, he said.
According to the organization’s community ministries coordinator Kerrin Fraser, the homeless count is expected to be completed on February 6.
“We’re receiving really good feedback from four different locations in Powell River that have the survey,” said Fraser. “They have a questionnaire that we’re using.”
The two-page form asks, among other anonymous questions, where the individual is currently living. Survey locations include the Salvation Army, Career Link, Poverty Law Advocate Program and Community Resource Centre.
It has been difficult to compile an actual number of how many homeless people are in Powell River, according to advocates in the community, but all agree it’s a growing problem and weather conditions the region experienced this winter make a cold/wet weather shelter necessary.
Many of the region’s homeless are referred to as couch-surfing or staying with friends, others live out of trucks or vans off the pole line and some are “living rough” in the woods and a few in the streets and back alleys, according to advocates.
“If we were to go looking for funding, the first place to start would have been with the homeless count,” said Loder. “That’s the right way of doing it.”
BC Housing funding is normally done in September/October, according to Loder, but he would not wait if circumstances called for a shelter to be opened.
“We’ll deal with that and pay for that,” he said. “That’s what I was willing to do.”
According to Adamson, while the shelter is closer to being realized, an effort that involved many, it was the Salvation Army that stepped up and took the lead.
“I’ll be excited when the doors are open,” said Adamson. “So far, it’s been a great exercise of a whole bunch of community members seeing a need that doesn’t really fit anyone’s particular agenda, but just coming together and saying we have to address it anyway.”
The Wednesday, February 1, edition of the Peak features a special long-form exclusive interview with premier Christy Clark, conducted by our publisher/editor Jason Schreurs.