Crowds spilled outside the doors of the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre on the evening of August 16, as Sechelt residents waited to get into an information meeting held by BC Housing on their proposed new 40-bed homeless shelter.
Many residents had been expecting a formal sit-down presentation, but the meeting consisted of poster boards, representatives answering questions, and public feedback forms. By the end of the evening, 165 people had signed into the meeting, which was held in the centre’s craft room, a space that only accommodates about 50 standees.
In addition to staff from BC Housing, representatives were also present from Vancouver Coastal Health, RainCity Housing, and St. Hilda’s Anglican Church, which has been providing space for a temporary shelter for the last four years.
“I’m pleased that there is a strong turnout for people to express their opinions,” said Craig Crawford, vice-president of operations for BC Housing.
The proposed shelter site, at Ebbtide Street and Trail Avenue (adjacent to the sewage treatment plant), is owned by the District of Sechelt and would be leased to BC Housing. The lot is serviced and convenient to amenities and public transit. BC Housing is proposing a modular format which can be constructed quickly before winter sets in.
Amenities provided at the new facility would include 24/7 staffing, meals, laundry, and assistance accessing community services such as health care and employment. Clients would be helped to stabilize their situations and make plans to move to secure long-term housing.
BC Housing is also working on a proposal for High Tide Supportive Housing, a 32-unit project on High Tide Avenue, which would provide space for individuals who are homeless or a risk of homelessness. Shelter clients would be able to transition to this facility as a step towards permanent housing.
A 2009 official count by the District of Sechelt identified 54 homeless people, though other estimates are much higher. Commenting on a public Facebook thread after the meeting, outreach worker Nick Gaskin said that he has over 100 people in his active caseload and estimates there are about 300 homeless people altogether on the Sunshine Coast.
St. Hilda’s has been accommodating 15 people per night sleeping on mats on the floor in a space that was never designed as a shelter.
Comments collected at the meeting on flip charts and via comment forms will be forwarded by BC Housing to the District of Sechelt. Additional comments are still being accepted via email@example.com.
BC Housing has not yet made a formal request to Sechelt to lease the land, but was asked to hold a public meeting as a first step. The project will have to apply for a temporary use permit and a building permit, which will go through the district’s public process.