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Province funds new winter-shelter beds — but not the ones city asked for

November 30th, 2011 · 63 Comments

Another strange winter of tussling between the city and province over funding winter-shelter beds.

As my story here outlines, the province is going to open some winter-shelter beds, but not in the areas where city staff say they’re needed.

The last two years, the city has asked for — and eventually received, after some struggle — money to operate four temporary winter shelters in areas outside the downtown core: Mount Pleasant, Cardero near Stanley Park, Kitsilano, and Granville Slopes under the Granville bridge.

City and housing staff say those shelters helped encourage people to come into shelters who previously refused to go near the downtown or Downtown Eastside and wouldn’t use the province’s “extreme-weather” shelters because those shelters only open late at night and on nights when the temperature drops to freezing. (Most preferred to find their own nooks to curl up and be asleep long before the extreme-weather shelters opened.)

But Housing Minister Rich Coleman says those aren’t needed any more, since about 400 spaces have been provided in social-housing projects that have opened up in the past few months.

City staff say the problem is

1. Current shelters are still full to the brim and there are people out on the streets.

2. Those housing projects are only taking in small numbers of the people who are the long-term homeless in the city.

3. The shelters outside downtown help staff establish contact with a whole group of people who won’t go out of their existing neighbourhoods, helping break the “culture of homelessness.”

Stay tuned for more on this. There is a major struggle going on, as the city and province struggle over, not just these shelters, but who is getting the precious rooms in the new social-housing projects.

CORRECTION: I’ve had a couple of phone calls this morning about the information that Surrey is asking for the temperature criterion to be changed for opening the extreme-weather shelter beds. To be clear, it’s not BC Housing that decides on that, it’s the council in conjunction with its local housing partners.

The city’s news release was a bit ambiguous on that.


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