City council continues working on supportive housing development

Bylaw and agreement amendments help iron out wrinkles in facility operation

The Good Neighbour Agreement, which provides an official means of communication between the proposed Elliott Street Supportive Housing facility and the community, was amended by City of Quesnel councillors at their Dec. 5 meeting.

The amendment saw Northern Health removed as a signatory to the agreement, and the Quesnel Tillicum Society and North Cariboo Aboriginal Family Program Society also asked to have their names removed as optional parties in the agreement.

Northern Health will still provide consultative services on best practices and service delivery if the development is approved.

The Good Neighbour Agreement is a communication tool only, and does not provide regulation or enforcement measures, development services director Tanya Turner explained.

Other amendments

During the Nov. 21 council meeting, the proposed Elliott Street project continued to be a hot-button item around the council table.

There was a recommendation before the councillors to rescind first reading of the previous motion to allow the deletion of Section 1 (c) of the City of Quesnel Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 1830 of 2017 and add a definition of “supportive housing” in Section 3.1.

Basically, Bylaw 1830 has been changed by deleting the word “clinical” services and replacing it with “on-site” services.

It would read: “Supportive housing means a facility that provides a range of accommodations from emergency shelter to independent housing operated by a government agency or non-profit society that provides a range of on-site supports to residents, such as life-skills training; connections to primary health care; mental health and substance abuse services.”

Then council would be asked to re-read first reading to Bylaw 1830.

Councillor Ron Paull kicked off the conversation by asking for a definition of the word “residents.”

“I can see the intent is for full-time residents, but I’m a little worried it might creep into drop-in residents who might be stopping in for a day or a night. I would like to know if there is a line there.”

Turner said the support service would only be provided to the residents in the supportive housing units or those who use the shelter portion of the facilities, and not for the general public.

Paull wanted to know if that clarity would be transferred into an agreement.

Turner replied the clarity has been transferred into several agreements, included in the housing agreement.

Coun. Sushil Thapar wanted a definition of extreme weather. He said hot summer weather could be defined as extreme weather.

Turner replied that B.C. Housing considers extreme weather to be events that occur between November and March.

Mayor Bob Simpson said he agreed with Turner’s explanation of council’s expectations “wholeheartedly,” but added he had concerns about the open house and the public hearing at the Quesnel & District Seniors’ Centre on Dec. 13.

“Council members shouldn’t really engage in the public hearing other than clarification questions.

“But there’s nothing that precludes council members from asking questions during the B.C. Housing information session.

“We’re privy to all of this stuff that has evolved – the background documents, the housing agreement, etc. If you’re feeling the public is missing some key questions and some key considerations, I want council to know it’s not our meeting….

“We need clarification from B.C. Housing … there’s supposed to be a Q and A, so as council members, if you see areas the public needs to hear from the operator, then feel free to weigh in.”

The mayor said he was going to express his concerns up front about the shelter component to the proposed facility.

“After the information session and the public hearing and through the second and third readings, if we feel we need to change the definition, we can, because my concern is that the shelter and the way it’s being operated out of Seasons House is drop-in.

“The way shelters are supposed to be is registered clients who are actually in a client-service delivery model, who are going to move on in the housing continuum, are going to be provided with services.”

Simpson added the current model actually operates around that by having people drop in.

“It’s not just me. Other people have indicated that it becomes a bit of a flop house.

“So, I have serious concerns with the current operation of Seasons House that [the drop-in] model will be adapted at the new facility.”

The mayor said what he’s hearing from the public is that they’re not opposed to the transition housing units or the recovery beds; the focus of the concern is around the shelter.

“I intend to ask those questions in the public domain at the public information session to try to flesh that out a little bit,” he said.

B.C. Housing will be hosting a public information session at the Quesnel & District Seniors’ Centre on Wednesday Dec. 13, starting with viewing of poster boards at 4:30 p.m., followed by a presentation at 5 p.m.

Following the presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session until 6:45 p.m.

The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the same location.

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