Impromptu shelter opens in Grand Forks

Impromptu shelter opens in Grand Forks

Volunteers were given owner’s access to building previously used as warming centre in Grand Forks

People out in the cold in Grand Forks were suddenly offered a place to keep warm on Sunday evening, after a group of volunteers got together to open up a shelter space at 7500 Donaldson Dr., the same location that hosted a warming centre in Grand Forks last year.

The space opened as temperatures dipped below -15 C on Sunday night as winds whipped through the valley, the coldest Grand Forks has been this winter. According to Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor, the building’s owner opened up the space to the group to use as a shelter. As of Monday afternoon, the impromptu shelter was being staffed by volunteers (including the mayor, who worked the previous night’s shift) and was open through the day.

Taylor said that four people used the space on Sunday night, two of whom he said were “in bad condition” when they arrived.

Neighbours were taken by surprise with the opening of the shelter, spurring concerns from critics of its establishment about transparency in the decision to open the facility. Last winter, a warming centre was quickly set-up at the location by a collection of social services and drew criticism from those who were wary of the impacts a shelter would have on the neighbours around the Donaldson Drive location.

On Monday morning at a committee of the whole meeting, councillors fielded questions that prodded the decision to open the shelter, but while council did have a discussion about the shelter during an in-camera meeting on Sunday, acting mayor Neil Krog said that he and his colleagues did not formally approve the opening of the shelter for Sunday evening.

“It is regrettable that the facility opened last night without that consent,” Krog said. Council voted last July to enforce the zoning bylaw covering the building, which does not allow for more than one person to sleep at the location overnight. That enforcement led to the shelter’s closing in August.

Nevertheless, an operator for an emergency shelter, Boundary Family Services Society (BFSS), has stepped forward to run a facility in Grand Forks until spring. “My board was very clear: we will not participate beyond Mar. 31,” confirmed Darren Pratt, the non-profit’s executive director at the committee of the whole.

As of Jan. 14, BFSS was still not involved in current operations at 7500 Donaldson Dr. Rather, council resolved Monday night that they would wait to see what rules and regulations BFSS would operate the shelter under before giving formal approval. Councillors resolved to hold another public meeting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 15 to discuss the rules of operation.

At the committee of the whole, Coun. Rod Zielinski expressed discomfort with permitting a shelter to operate on Donaldson Dr. “I believe it’s very imperative that we follow our bylaws and that we enforce our bylaws,” said the councillor who initiated the bylaw enforcement in July. “If council does not follow their own bylaws, I don’t know what kind of society we have.”

While Coun. Christine Thompson agreed, she noted that the extreme cold felt this week constituted “an emergent situation,” adding that “the proposed provider is an acceptable provider that would operate a facility with rules and regulations.”

Addressing councillors’ concerns about breaching city bylaws, Grand Forks interim CAO Ron Mattiussi noted that from a provider’s perspective, 7500 Donaldson Dr. “was the site but they could literally turn the key on, turn on the heat and get some people out of the cold.

“My recommendation at this point is to see if you can make this work,” Mattiussi told councillors, “at least in the short term to get them off the street. […] There’s greater risk to the community, having people trying to find their own emergency shelter wherever they can do it than necessarily having a provider that we trust and being able to try to take a crack at this.”

Speaking in favour of using the Donaldson Drive location as a winter shelter this year, Coun. Chris Moslin said that he could, “in good conscience, suspend the enforcement of the bylaw until the end of March 2020 in order to provide humanitarian relief to those in the cold,” adding that he would endorse BFSS as the provider.

By the end of Monday’s meeting, council had discussed but had not yet approved waiving enforcement of the zoning bylaw governing the number of people permitted to stay overnight at the location, waiting instead to see proposed rules from BFSS.

Meanwhile, as of Jan. 14, a group of volunteers was staffing the building at 7500 Donaldson Dr. to offer a round-the-clock shelter option, as the temperature moved between -10 C and -20 C.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

An earlier version (and Jan. 15 print edition) of this story quoted Grand Forks CAO Ron Mattiussi as saying 7500 Donaldson Dr. “was the site but they could literally turn the key on, turn off the heat and get some people out of the cold.” Mattiussi in fact said “turn on the heat.” We apologize for the error.

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Grand Forks RCMP say the deceased’s car fell off Highway 3, west of the city. File photo
Motorist killed in Highway 3 crash was a Castlegar man: Grand Forks RCMP

The man’s family has been notified, according to Cst. Corey Flodell

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Grand Forks RCMP, left, and Grand Forks Fire/Rescue attended a fatal Highway 3 crash Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue members push Engine 352 into its new home at the Carson Hall Wednesday, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
WATCH — Grand Forks Fire/Rescue brings home new engine

Department members welcomed Engine 352 to Carson Hall in a special “push” ceremony

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Most Read