There, by the grace of God, go I.
That’s the mantra Roland Klann carries with him as he volunteers daily — as he’s done for a month for the past 15 years — at a temporary shelter at the Coquitlam Alliance Church.
The winter shelter opened in the Spuraway Avenue building's basement Feb. 1 after a plea last November from the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group for providers to step forward.
Then, city council had OK’d four churches to host the shelter program; however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages, an operator couldn’t be secured until January.
Now, Klann is helping the Progressive Housing Society, a Burnaby-based group that’s in the Tri-Cities for its first time, responding to the call to assist with the ongoing crisis locally.
“I’m here at 5 a.m. and I get to see these people in the morning to have a cup of coffee and to talk with them,” said Klann, a Coquitlam home inspector.
“They’re grateful for that because they know that I care. It gives them a lift before they start off on their day.”
Klann said he repeats his mantra to remind him how close he and his family were to being homeless.
Years back, he lost his job when his youngest child was one month old and he was forced to rebuild his life.
With COVID-19, times are still tough with people out on the street.
But the difference today, Klann said, is some people are being kicked out of their homes because the land is so valuable. And with housing prices being so high and supply so short, they’re being forced out of the city or have find accommodation elsewhere.
Klann laments that homelessness continues. “The shelter was supposed to be temporary.”
Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson, also B.C.’s finance minister, said the solution is simple: City halls in the Tri-Cities need to start building supportive housing.
During a tour of the Coquitlam Alliance Church shelter on Friday (Feb. 11), she encouraged staff with the task group, Progressive Housing and BC Housing, the Crown agency that funds temporary shelters, as well as church volunteers, to lobby local politicians for action.
Currently, Robinson is pitching housing projects for each of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody but is getting “no interest” about the provincial cash that’s on the table.
Instead, she said city halls are pointing the finger at each other about responsibility.
“Shelters don’t cut it. They’re not homes. This is about dignity,” Robinson said.
“The provincial government has stepped up in a big way. The federal government has stepped up in a big way but local governments, quite frankly, haven’t. They’re the missing pieces.”
She added, “There are over 90 communities that have taken up supportive housing: Abbotsford’s building new ones, Maple Ridge too. It seems like everyone but my own.”
Robinson also stressed that səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview is not an option for supportive housing as the historical site in Coquitlam isn’t close to amenities.
Polly Krier of the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group thanked the two new shelter providers in the area: the Phoenix Society has run the extreme weather refuge at the Kyle Centre in Port Moody since November; Progressive Housing will end its run at the Coquitlam Alliance Church on Feb. 28; it moves to the Calvary Baptist Church for the month of March.
Still, come April 1, she said there will be no temporary shelters locally for the homeless to
- sleep indoors
- get dinner, breakfast and a lunch bag to go
- connect with community and medical help
Krier, who’s also an Anmore councillor, fears the consequences of having nothing available, stating: “In seven months, we’re going to have to organize these shelters all over again.”
• The Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group needs winter jackets, waterproof footwear, work boots, toiletries, hand sanitizer and First Aid kits for the Tri-City shelters. Email Polly@PollyK.ca if you have items to donate.
ABOUT THE SHELTERS
- The Tri-Cities’ only supportive housing is at 3030 Gordon Ave., in Coquitlam, run by RainCity Housing with 30 units. There is also a 45-bed shelter at 3030 Gordon that operates year-round.
- Currently, there are two seasonal shelter programs in the Tri-Cities: 15 beds at the Coquitlam Alliance Church (and the Calvary Baptist Church in March); and the extreme weather shelter at the Kyle Centre, also with 15 beds.
- There is additional space at a Coquitlam hotel that’s operating as an emergency response centre; it is by referral through Fraser Health. It is not a drop-in shelter, and is available during the pandemic for people experiencing homelessness who are medically vulnerable.