The continued issue of homelessness in Fort St. John causing a local church to take precautions to ward off property damage.

The Alliance Church on 99th Avenue was forced to put up a fence after encampments began springing up and graffiti riddled a portion of the property.

The church is adjacent to the Northern Centre of Hope, a shelter and transitional housing centre for the city's unhoused.

“As tents continue to go up between our properties and around our city, we have seen first hand the risks they create including issues of safety, unhealthy living conditions and property damage,” said Alliance Church in a statement to CJDC-TV.

The church and Salvation Army add that they aim to create safe spaces for the community that promote health and dignity for everyone.

“We deeply care for those experiencing homelessness around us and want them to experience wholeness in every area of their lives.“

The fence was put up through a mutual agreement with the church and Salvation Army, and was paid for by BC Housing who own a majority share of the Northern Centre of Hope.

Both the Centre of Hope and church say they will continue their commitment to work together in a compassionate manner to keep the community safe.

“The Northern Center of Hope and Fort St. John Alliance Church are committed to working together to love, care and keep those in our community safe."

Fort St. John City Councillor Trevor Bolin, who has been advocating for a bylaw that would see the encampments banned on city streets and parks, said there is continued pushback from the province and the Human Rights Commissioner. 

The bylaw introduced in 2023 ended up falling by the wayside, the municipality taking a step back to evaluate the root cause of homelessness under the guidance of province.

“We will get to a place where this concern is properly mitigated in the community for the safety of all,” Bolin told CJDC-TV.

A homeless count by BC Housing saw 102 unhoused people in Fort St. John in 2023, with 65 per cent identifying as indigenous.

In May, Salvation Army director Jared Braun confirmed the centre hasn't turned anyone away, but the 42-unit complex is almost at capacity.

“In partnership with the Salvation Army Northern Centre of Hope, Fort St. John Alliance desires to create safe spaces and places for our neighbors that promote health and dignity for everyone,” said Alliance Church.