"It's not acceptable"- Peace Region not on Province's list for more beds at shelters
FORT ST. JOHN -- In a recent press release, B.C. Housing announced that they will be funding 5,000 shelter spaces in 50 communities throughout B.C. However, cities in Northeastern B.C. were not a part of the list.
The announcement came after the Salvation Army decreased the number of beds at the emergency shelter from 50 to 30 beds due to a lack of staff and space. Salvation Army’s Executive Director Jared Braun says they need more support.
“We need other organizations, other agencies beyond ourselves to be able to provide support because the need is growing. We've seen it in our own community. We've seen it across the province,” says Braun.
The funding will go towards permanent, temporary and extreme weather-response shelters. The province says there will be 512 temporary shelter spaces open throughout B.C., as of Nov. 1.
So far, Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria will be receiving additional spaces.
“They've just announced 5,000 beds and they're talking about the cold weather and concern. Yet, we've seen a reduction of shelter beds in Fort St. John. It's not acceptable,” says Peace River North MLA Dan Davies.
According to the press release, “B.C. Housing has worked with providers to convert 135 temporary spaces into permanent, year-round shelters in northern communities so that more spaces are open nightly for the winter season and beyond.”
The Salvation Army says only six temporary spaces will be turned into permanent spots. In comparison, Prince George's, which has triple Fort St. John’s population, received 24 times the amount the energetic city received.
Temporary, emergency shelters provide short-term accommodation for more than just the homeless. It also helps those fleeing domestic violence and other crises.
“It's a lot of people that are in transition and people that are going through a crisis and are just not able to sustain housing due to mental health challenges and addiction challenges,“ says Braun.
Davies says the province needs to keep the same number of beds as before if they are not looking at ways to increase spaces. “It doesn't sound like the government is even a willing participant in making this a reality.”
The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness is providing reimbursements to local authorities and Indigenous communities for emergency-warming centres during extreme weather. Communities may be reimbursed for costs to establish warming centres, including facility rental and incremental utility costs.
B.C. Housing is finalizing operating agreements to open more shelter spaces this season, as communities identify additional sites. There are no updates as to where those will be located.
CJDC TV reached out to B.C. Housing. They have not answered our questions as of yet.