During the Dec. 5 Quesnel council meeting, Mayor Bob Simpson tabled a letter he sent to Municipal Affairs & Housing Minister Selina Robinson regarding the proposed Elliott Street Supportive Housing project.
He opened the letter by stating council “is supportive of BC Housing’s desire to build a new transition housing facility in Quesnel.”
The mayor noted city staff has worked with BC Housing to ensure the public is fully informed about the nature of the project and the service delivery model that will be used at the proposed facility.
Simpson told the minister all of the documentation council requested to be made available to the public at the Dec. 13 open house and public hearing has been drafted and approved by council.
“Unfortunately, the issue I raised with you about the community’s lack of confidence in the named operator for the proposed new facility [Quesnel Shelter & Support Society] remains a deep concern for council, other service providers and the general public,” the mayor wrote.
After the meeting, Simpson told the Quesnel Observer the society has the operating contract for Seasons House, which is a BC Housing facility.
He noted Seasons House is a combination recovery beds, a small number of transition units and a shelter.
“What we’ve encountered is a lot of resistance and concern about the Shelter Society being the operator of the new facility because people have concerns about how they’re operating Seasons House.
“Rightly or wrongly, the concerns are around the current operator. [Council] has made it clear that we have our concerns about what’s going on there.”
In his letter to Minister Robinson, Simpson said, “The concern is that this society will choose, despite assurances to the contrary, to become all things to all people at the new facility and continue to offer a “safe haven” environment at the proposed new shelter.
“The “safe haven” or “sanctuary” approach the society has taken at the current shelter and transition housing facility has created significant public safety issues for our community and has created unnecessary backlash against BC Housing’s proposed replacement shelter and transition housing facility.”
After the council meeting, Simpson said council expressed that concern to BC Housing and noted the concerns are widespread enough and have enough legitimacy for BC Housing to address them by putting out a Request for Proposals [RFP] for the new facility.”
The mayor noted the Shelter Society could bid on the RFP as the potential operator, but so could the Native Friendship Centre, the Tillicum Society Amata Transition House or operators from Prince George or Williams Lake who operate facilities with “fewer problems than we get out of Seasons House.”
“This is a long-term contract for a much bigger facility and a much bigger service delivery, and there’s a lot of tax dollars involved in it.”
Simpson said council hasn’t had clarity from BC Housing as to why it’s not hearing what council is hearing, and why it’s not taking that step to an open, transparent bid process.
In his letter to the minister, the mayor wrote “Council unanimously endorsed a resolution strongly recommending that BC Housing issue an open RFP for the operations of the new facility.
“BC Housing steadfastly refuses to take this step, much to the consternation of our community and service providers within the community and without.
“Council continues to be confused as to why BC Housing will not do the right thing in this matter and help us to regain the public’s trust by issuing an open RFP for their proposed new facility.
“It is our hope that you can intervene and help us get clarity, or better yet, have BC Housing issue an RFP.”
It is likely this and other issues and concerns will be discussed, questioned and explained during tonight’s (Dec. 13) open house and public hearing at the Quesnel & District Seniors’ Centre.
The open house, hosted by BC Housing, starts at 4:30 with poster boards, a presentation and a question-and-answer period.
This will be an opportunity to look at the facility, ask questions about what’s going to be available for the residents, and what the rules and guidelines will be in place for the operation of the facility.
At 7 p.m., the City public hearing begins and residents can let mayor and council know how they feel about the project.