Grand Forks’ homeless shelter will stay open through next March or until the city and BC Housing (BCH) can deliver a permanent housing solution, city council resolved Monday, April 12.
Council last fall narrowly approved a temporary use permit for BCH and Boundary Family Services (BFS), which fund and operate the shelter at 2320 78th Ave.
Monday’s 4-3 vote dovetails on-going negotiations towards a combined shelter and supportive housing facility at the disused “motocross site” on Morrissey Creek Rd, popularly known as “Moto.” Talks between the city and BCH made headway last month, when Attorney General and housing minister David Eby committed to the project in principle. Eby, in a March 19 email to mayor and council, “encouraged” the city to “keep the temporary shelter open” while “moving forward with explorations” toward the proposed Moto project.
Recent feedback by 14 residents who live within 100 metres of the shelter unanimously opposes the shelter’s extension. Joining council by phone last Monday, Grand Forks RCMP’s Sgt. Darryl Peppler said he was “a huge proponent” of keeping the shelter open. Mounties have not seen an increase in neighbourhood crime, he said.
“Everyone that I talk to is in agreement that shelters are necessary — just ‘not in my neighbourhood’ is what it comes down to,” he said.
Joining via Zoom, BFS’s executive director Darren Pratt said shelter clients were participating in mental health programs, including treatment for addiction.
Coun. Neil Krog objected that the extended facility would technically operate as a COVID-shelter, according to the resolution before council. Shelter clients would likely be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus if the shelter stayed open for another two months, he suggested in an amendment which went down 2-5. Krog also questioned Eby and BCH’s motivations behind the proposed Moto project.
“If they’re saying, ‘You have to keep the COVID shelter open or we’re not going to talk about this stuff [the Moto project]’ that’s not good faith. That’s blackmail,” he said.
Mayor Brian Taylor voted with councillors Everett Baker, Christine Thompson and Chris Moslin to grant BCH and BFD a permit to operate the shelter until March 31, 2022, or until a permanent housing solution could be built at an alternate city location. Councillors Krog, Zack Eburne-Stoodley and Cathy Korolek voted against the motion.
Council can vote to scrap the shelter’s permit if negotiations were to break down with Eby and BCH, according to a clause in the permit.