Before winter, a council in West Kootenay, British Columbia, voted to let a temporary homeless shelter continue to operate with more beds for another year.
However, while some residents support the move, they say the shelter needs to be moved from the city’s downtown area so its residents can get the support they need and to minimize the impact on nearby businesses.
On Monday night, Trail City Council voted 5-1 to renew the La Nina Extreme Weather Shelter’s temporary use license so it can continue operating with 18 beds for another year.
The shelter located at 1456 Bay Ave. is operated by Career Development Services (CDS), a service provider under the non-profit organization Trail Association for Community Living.
City staff say CDS only provided eight beds a night from November to March, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, the shelter has operated 24/7 , all year.
Later, with increased calls from the community to support homeless people, the council granted CDS a one-year temporary permit to add 10 more beds and lockers to the basement on September 27, 2021.
Prior to the permit, the shelter was operating at full capacity with eight beds, according to CDS.
Neither the province nor the city has conducted a homeless count in Trail, about 18 kilometers north of the Canada-US border.
But according to data released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 2021, the community of nearly 8,000 people saw its apartment vacancy rate drop from over 10% in 2012 to less than 2% in 2018. .
City staff said council originally considered a three-year license extension, giving BC Housing enough time to find a permanent location for the shelter outside the town centre.
But after feedback from local residents, council decided last week to vote on a one-year extension.
Need medical support around the shelter
Dina Esposito, owner of the Esposito Boutique Hotel across from the shelter, says she saw rubbish on the alley of her property left by homeless people.
Esposito says that while she supports the shelter, she wants it moved from downtown because the current facility is too small to meet the needs of its residents.
“Maybe the government [can] step in and help them and give them what they need to have a nice facility, to accommodate them and have them all in one place, where they can have the professionals helping them,” Esposito said last week on CBC. South Dawn.
Carole Dobie, the councilor who voted against extending the permit, echoes the need for her relocation, saying the shelter has dealt a serious financial blow to downtown businesses.
“There are about six companies very close to the shelter that have spent almost $100,000 to make their business as safe as possible,” Dobie said ahead of the vote.
“[When you] open your business every morning, the first thing you need to do is clean the needles and syringes and defecate – and let that happen in broad daylight.”
Dobie adds that shelters should be close to medical clinics and government offices that can provide support for homeless people, some of whom may also be struggling with addiction or mental illness.
Diana Daghofer, co-chair of the Trail community action team that champions the shelter, says her group and other community members have been working with BC Housing for years to find an alternative location outside of downtown, in vain.
“They say they can’t find a location right now, so nothing is on the horizon,” she said.
In a written statement to CBC News, BC Housing said it was in discussions with the city about a potential new temporary shelter outside of downtown, but did not provide a timeline for its availability.