The official opening of BC Housing’s extreme weather shelter season has come and gone, and Campbell River still does not have a facility in place for this year.
Extreme weather response shelters have been operated by local non-profits in the past in Campbell River. These facilities, supported by BC Housing, provide temporary accommodation between Nov. 1 and March 31, but only when an extreme weather alert has been declared.
However, no such shelter is currently operating in Campbell River, despite stormy weather as of late.
“None of the individual agencies have either space or staffing capacity to host the response in the model that it has previously been done in Campbell River,” Sue Moen, representative from the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness (CRDCEH), said during the coalition’s monthly meeting on Thursday.
Stefanie Hendrickson, CRDCEH coordinator, asked the City of Campbell River to support an Emergency Weather Shelter for the 2021 to 2022 winter season, in an Oct. 19 letter to council. This request, which specifically asked the city to provide a staff liaison to help secure staff and a location for an emergency weather shelter, was discussed in the Nov. 1 city council meeting.
The city is unlikely to be able to help, as both its staff and facility resources are stretched thin, said Coun. Claire Moglove, in the meeting.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but this is a real problem for Campbell River this winter,” she said.
This view was supported by Jason Locke, the city’s planning and sustainability manager.
“It obviously requires unique staff to be able to manage this facility, and so the big issue is finding the resources, which there’s a lack of — and that’s what a lot of the social service providers are finding right now,” said Locke.
Campbell River Family Services operated a 16-bed, portable shelter constructed from a modified “sea can” that operated for several years. But it was sold for scrap, said Coun. Ron Kerr, in the council meeting.
“It would have come in pretty handy,” he said.
However, that portable shelter was demolished because, as Moen said, it was “uninhabitable.”
A provincial announcement about emergency weather shelters came out on Nov. 4, which listed temporary shelter space in Campbell River. However, that space is located in the Rose Bowl facility downtown. It is not designated “emergency weather shelter” space, and it has been open for over a year.
Though there is nothing on the horizon as of yet, a coalition working group is exploring ideas from other communities, including setting aside a parking lot somewhere in the community, setting up pop-up warming centres and other ideas.
“We are exploring anything and everything that might work,” Moen said. “We’ve put it out there, we’ve had some community feedback, but so far nothing has been particularly useful.”
“We’re looking to just spread this far and wide so that someone out there will have an ‘aha moment’ and we can make that work,” she said.