The extreme weather shelter was installed beside Fire Hall No. 1 in downtown Campbell River.

Homeless shelter: location found, but where’s the funding?

UPDATE:Campbell River homeless shelter put in place beside the downtown fire hall

Campbell River’s extreme weather emergency shelter for the city’s most vulnerable will be back next to the downtown fire hall this winter.

The shelter, a portable steel shipping container, can sleep 16 people among eight heated rooms and has served the city’s homeless population since 2013.

City council has pledged up to $5,000 of city money to make any modifications necessary for safety purposes at the 675 13th Ave. site.

But Paul Mason with Campbell River Family Services, which owns and operates the shelter, said funding beyond that is still up in the air.

Mason said Family Services has sent a budget request, along with letters of support from Kwakiutl District Council (KDC), the city and MLA Claire Trevena, to BC Housing for funding to keep the shelter open every night.

“They have been very supportive but as of yet I haven’t heard from BC Housing as to whether the budget prepared for the shelter will be approved,” Mason said Thursday morning.

BC Housing typically provides funding to keep the Extreme Weather Shelter open from Nov. 1 to March 31 but last year it provided additional funding to keep the shelter open until June.

The shelter received financial assistance from the city as well last season. City council provided $15,000 to refurbish the shelter and contributed another $6,000 to sponsor the operation of one of the rooms. The Strathcona Regional District also provided $15,000.

Those contributions were on top of the BC Housing funds which are typically only provided to keep the shelter open on nights when the temperature dips below 0 degrees Celsius or if it’s an especially windy night.

Mason said last year that it’s critical that the organization be able to consistently keep the doors open for the homeless.

“When the shelter is open every night, they know where they can come to,” Mason said. “When the shelter is closed, they disperse out into the community and you could lose a few people that way.”

The shelter, which was purchased by Campbell River Family Services for $1, is a valuable resource as the number of homeless has been on the rise.

Mason said last year that there were about 52 unsheltered people on Campbell River streets. In 2009, there were 37.

The extreme weather shelter is aimed at helping those people find a safe, warm place to sleep, but it is only open during the bad weather months.

Campbell River Family Services and the City of Campbell River have been working on a more permanent, year-round solution for the past few years.

Mayor Andy Adams said a sobering assessment centre is still in the works.

“As part of the city’s ongoing efforts to alleviate long-term homelessness, we continue to work with local organizations as well as Island Health and BC Housing to establish a sobering assessment centre in Campbell River,” Adams said. “Eventually, the shelter could be relocated to the site of such a centre.”

With a sobering assessment centre, the homeless would have access to assistance 24/7 from professional medical providers and counsellors.

Mason said the service would take pressure off the hospital’s emergency room, and reduce costs to taxpayers, while providing care for the homeless with a humane approach.

“It’ll get them off the streets and give them a place that’s theirs and where they can be treated with dignity and respect,” Mason said. “Plus it’s a place where the homeless can come to any time of day to get out of the rain, sit down and have a cup of coffee and open up the lines of communication. It’s a chance to sit down and talk to them and give them some hope.”

Council has been looking into establishing a social services zone within the city that could accommodate a sobering assessment centre.