Elected officials and staff from Coquitlam City Hall will tour the Tri-Cities only homeless shelter today, Sept. 6, following a study of its operations.
The report, which was released last week, offers several recommendations for the operator of 3030 Gordon Ave., RainCity Housing, as well as for BC Housing, civic and provincial governments and Fraser Health to address the challenges at the facility.
Opened in December 2015, 3030 Gordon Ave. is located in Coquitlam — about half a block from the Port Coquitlam border — and consists of:
- transitional housing for 30 people
- emergency shelter for 30 people
- temporary emergency shelter for up to 15 people
Last October, following complaints by Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam city administrators and politicians, a team of researchers visited 3030 Gordon to survey RainCity staff and residents; in total, Harry Cummings & Associates of Guelph, Ont., conducted interviews with 97 people for the review that was commissioned by BC Housing.
Catharine Hume, co-executive director of RainCity Housing, told the Tri-City News yesterday, Sept. 5, that her organization is "well aware" of the problems at 3030 Gordon Ave. and is already on top of many of the recommendations provided in the report.
RainCity is also meeting with local stakeholders to look at the bigger picture "to collectively move forward in the community on better levels of supportive housing."
According to the report, the lack of affordable housing in the Tri-Cities, "including provincially funded supportive housing to meet the needs off those who are ready and have the capacity to move forward," is a major issue for RainCity.
Coquitlam–Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson, whose constituency includes 3030 Gordon, has called on City Hall to rezone and provide more land for people in need of supportive housing.
But Hume said the post–COVID transition hasn't been easy and many residents haven't been able to move out due to severe mental health issues and drug addictions.
As a result, the report recommendation to re-establish the facility's 90-day stay policy for shelter residents may not always be possible, she said.
"We are in a national housing crisis," Hume said bluntly.
"Permanent housing is expensive.… There are many people currently in supportive housing for an extended period of time. We work with people who want to move and find housing alternatives. Provincially, there's a lot of work going on, but [finding housing has] gotten harder and harder."
Besides the call to build more supportive housing in the Tri-Cities, the report offers six recommendations for BC Housing to move forward on the future of 3030 Gordon plus 17 for RainCity and seven for community partners.
Among the items on RainCity's to-do list are to:
- reduce staff turnover
- ensure the neighbourhood is clean of litter and drug paraphernalia
- set up a harm reduction room at 3030 Gordon Ave.
- provide more programs and activities for residents
- establish a dedicated street outreach team
Coquitlam RCMP Supt. Kenneth Bramhill was not available for comment this or last week; however, Polly Krier, an Anmore village councillor and co-ordinator of the Homelessness and Housing Task Group, told the Tri-City News on Tuesday that the recommendations weren't a surprise.
"We are pleased the review highlighted the need to provide additional housing and supports to those experiencing homelessness in the Tri-Cities," Krier said.
"These growing needs have been evident for several years."
Her task group, of which RainCity is a member, is meeting on Friday, Sept. 8, for a strategic planning workshop facilitated by Urban Matters. The feedback from the 50 or more officials in attendance will be used to shape the direction and focus of the task force, she said.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said he hopes measures will be taken by RainCity and other agencies to help the people at 3030 Gordon — and the facility's residential and commercial neighbours.
"In 2018, the cities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam conducted a joint review of 3030 Gordon in response to concerns about its operation," he told the Tri-City News.
"At that time, many promises were made by the operator and BC Housing about how they were going to make improvements but we haven not seen that. What I hear from our community is that they’re tired of the promises; they want to see action."
Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, who chairs the city's community safety advisory committee, said street and nuisance crimes in the area have been a problem since 3030 Gordon opened eight years ago, which places an increased demand on police and fire services.
"As a community and a society, it is important that we look after our most vulnerable members and ensure our residents feel safe," Hodge said.
"The operation of 3030 Gordon must be improved, and all three levels of government must work together and fulfill their various responsibilities to address mental health and addictions problems and ensure there is a full range of housing from emergency shelters right through to affordable housing."
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