The Boundary Family Services Society (BFSS) will not be running a proposed supportive housing project from Motel 99 this winter, after negotiations between the society and BC Housing broke down and after details of the project emerged on social media Monday.
Darren Pratt, executive director of BFSS, said Wednesday the BFSS board had made a decision Monday not to continue to move forward with BC Housing on a phase one supportive housing project that would have been located in Motel 99 in Grand Forks. The project is now on hold as a result.
The project had been discussed at numerous closed meetings of housing stakeholders in recent weeks; the project was not public pending BC Housing and BFSS reaching an operating agreement and signing a lease. Pratt said at one such meeting that BC Housing had approached BFSS as a possible organization to administer a phase one housing project and the two organizations were negotiating.
In an interview with the Gazette on Wednesday, Pratt said that after working with BC Housing, BFSS had decided not to move forward with the project as there were concerns about “doing the project right.”
“There were points the board felt needed to be met that couldn’t be met,” Pratt said, pointing specifically to BC Housing’s udget
The Motel 99 project would have been phase one of a Housing First project in the Boundary, and would have been a precursor to residence the BC Housing development on Second Street, which was announced this fall. This project would have housed 10-15 residents and used approximately two additional rooms for gathering space and administrative offices; the lease would have run through to the spring with potential room for growth.
Housing First is an ideology that supports the reduction of chronic homelessness through providing a variety of supports and services in addition to housing.
Although he said there was no blame on the part of either organization, Pratt said this project needed a longer timeline than they were presented – “This needed to be dealt with in August.”
Another major concern in not moving the project forward was the level of staffing required –Pratt said they would have been looking to hire six full-time staff, and finding that many people with the necessary qualifications on the timeline presented in a small community was not feasible.
Pratt said he wanted to make it clear that Motel 99 would not have been a shelter – it would have been a first step towards long-term supportive housing, with clients being assessed and prepared for long-term tenancy at the Second Street supportive housing location.
When the Second Street development was announced, BC Housing said the project would be run by a local non-profit, but had not announced which non-profit would be tapped. When asked, Pratt said BFS “welcomes further discussion” on any potential for the organization to administer the Second Street development.
There were also concerns that BFSS, which enjoys strong community support, could take a hit in view of the potential problems with a housing development of this nature.
In response, Pratt said that might have been the case, had the organization moved forward on the project “without the tools to do it well.”
Pratt said BFSS remains open to further conversations about running a BC Housing project in future, and support the Housing First model.
“BC Housing is not walking away from us,” Pratt said. “We hope the discussion will continue, and Grand Forks is earmarked as a Housing first Community. It’s about context and timeline.”
-More on this story to come.