Interior Health has agreed to lease the former nurses’ residence near the hospital in Grand Forks to the city, to be used as a winter shelter, an agency representative said last week at a meeting of local stakeholders.
Karen Heric, a registered nurse with Interior Health, told the Grand Forks Social Services Advisory Group (GFSSAG) that her employer “would like a formal proposal from the city” in order to move the process forward.
The news comes after months of deliberations from the GFSSAG and outreach to various community groups, property owners and stakeholders in the effort to find a winter shelter for Grand Forks. Last month, several councillors toured the former nurses’ residence with the city’s building inspector and acting fire chief to assess its feasibility.
The building was most recently the site for the Boundary Women’s Transition House, until that organization moved last winter.
While no lease had been drawn up by last Thursday’s meeting, Heric suggested that she would like to see 24-hour security at the facility, and that renovations would have to be done as well. Bob Huff of Habitat for Humanity in Grand Forks said that he would look into whether his organization could help coordinate with renovations.
“I think there are other things that this committee could do to help with this, to secure the hospital and make them feel good about it,” said Coun. Chris Moslin, who serves as secretary for the advisory group.
But while a building may now be in play for a winter shelter in Grand Forks, no service providers have yet stepped in to run the facility, meaning that the community still needs the provider and council’s approval before BC Housing funding will be made available.
Advisory group members Jan de Haan of Citizens for a Better Grand Forks and Miranda Burdoch of School District 51 have been reaching out to providers outside the Boundary but have received little enthusiasm as of their reports last week. De Haan said that the executive director of the John Howard Society in Kelowna was hesitant to do anything on a small scale in Grand Forks. John Howard is also being pressured right now in Kelowna to open up another shelter in the Okanagan city to serve people who are currently camping there.
The SSAG will be presenting its progress to council at the Dec. 16 committee of the whole.