Grand Forks city councillors voted 5-1 Monday in favour of a statement indicating that they accept some responsibility in establishing an emergency shelter in town, with all but Coun. Rod Zielinski voting in favour (Coun. Neil Krog was absent from the meeting).
The amended motion read: “The City of Grand Forks believes that it is a shared responsibility with other levels of government and service providers to have an emergency shelter.”
The discussion around the municipality’s responsibility for a winter shelter arose from a staff report requested by council at a previous meeting. The report, which summarizes how some other communities in B.C. are zoning for emergency shelters, effectively notes that there is no uniform pattern amongst those cities surveyed.
“What it says in Victoria would be very different than what it says in Kelowna, and so I think what we need is a made-in-Grand Forks definition,” interim Chief Administrative Officer Ron Mattiussi said, encouraging council to discuss what criteria would need to be satisfied in order for the city to accept a shelter.
“I think, one way or another, you’re in this and you have been in this situation, but what we’re trying to do is help you define, as a council through a democratic process, what in fact those criteria are good Grand Forks criteria,” Mattiussi said.
“What [staff] have tried to do […] is provide us with a process – a road map of how we’re going to get there,” added Coun. Chris Moslin.
Originally, Zielinski had put forward a simpler statement: “That the City of Grand Forks believes that it’s the City’s responsibility to have an emergency shelter within the City.” Moslin added the wording to indicate that establishing a shelter does not rest on the city’s shoulders alone.
“We didn’t like it last year when something happened on an informal basis and morphed from a winter extreme shelter into what began to look like a permanent shelter,” said Moslin. “Other than saying ‘No,’ we never said what we were going to do.”
While some councillors expressed doubt that BC Housing would fund an emergency seasonal shelter, the Crown corporation’s website indicates that it does support such facilities, defining temporary winter shelters as places that are “Generally open November 1 to April 30” and “closed from May 1 to Oct 31.”