The future of an emergency shelter in Coquitlam for vulnerable homeless during COVID-19 is in doubt after a fire on Wednesday (May 19).
The blaze that started on a different floor than the shelter rooms required everyone to evacuate from the Best Western Sure Stay hotel on Brunette Avenue, displacing 36 residents who had been living in rooms funded by BC Housing.
Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald said space was found in other shelters for the residents but not in the Tri-City area, and scattering them across the Lower Mainland will pose challenges for supporting them in the coming days and weeks.
Macdonald explained, up until the fire, the vulnerable Tri-City homeless could get medication and other supports while staying safe during COVID-19. It’s going to take a while to get all those programs back in place for people scattered now in other city shelters.
“It’s like any other fire that displaces individuals and family,” said Macdonald, noting that some of the residents of the Sure Stay had been housed for up to a year.
When or if the residents can move back in is not entirely known as it will take some time for safety issues at the burned hotel to be addressed, he said.
“We don’t know how long folks will be displaced — it could be days, it could be weeks.”
Efforts are being made to find a solution, he said, but the challenge underscores the need for more permanent solutions for area homeless, he said.
“This event fast-tracks those conversations and highlights the need that was there when there was nowhere for them to go.”
The goal of the shelter was to provide referred clients with 24-hour support as well as a safe place if they needed to isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was also storage for carts and personal items.
Among its accomplishments, according to a Coquitlam city report, the emergency response shelter at the Sure Stay connected people with substance use treatment, and health care, including two women who were pregnant.
As many as 29 rooms were leased for the program and some couples were housed.
Nurses were on-site daily from Fraser Health and clothing was provided for residents as needed.
Coquitlam has another shelter, the 3030 Gordon Project operated by RainCity Housing, providing rooms and longer-term housing, but it is currently full.