This week, another development in the ongoing plans for a supportive housing facility on Elliott Street has satisfied some and left others scrambling to reassess their options.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, councillors passed the first reading of a modified BC Housing proposal for the Elliott Street site, removing the emergency shelter and short-stay beds initially included in the plans.
This comes after BC Housing removed Quesnel Shelter and Support Society – which had been involved with the project from very early on – as the operator of the project, and promised to put out a request for proposals for other qualified organizations to bid on the contract.
Residents of the West Quesnel neighbourhood are no doubt pleased with the changes. Those who oppose of the project have been vocal about not wanting the building to become Seasons House 2.0, with residents loitering around the site much of the day, and needles and drug paraphenalia often found directly around the building.
But the problem remains: where will these vulnerable people go?
The modified plans to the BC Housing project leave a section of our community’s population on the outs, yet again.
Seasons House, on Carson Avenue, is at the end of its life, with the building no longer adequate to meeting the needs of the Quesnel Shelter and Support Society in serving its clients.
There’s no easy answer as to where to put a new shelter. Home owners understandably don’t want it in a residential neighbourhood; business owners would prefer it not be nearby either.
It would be easy, given the location of the Observer office, for us to say, “Not in my backyard!” and mean it literally.
But if not our backyard, whose?
The suggestion of an out-of-town shelter, with dedicated transport provided for client appointments in town, has been made, and it’s not the worst idea. But it is, perhaps, a solution that would quickly unravel, say, if shelter residents missed their bus – then where would they sleep? In the doorways of local businesses? That is far from an ideal result for the individuals or for Quesnel’s businesses.
Perhaps the solution – although likely an expensive one – is tearing down or modifying the current building, to make it more hospitable and a better fit for the shelter, or building a dedicated facility at the edge of the downtown core that is still walkable to access essential services.
Either way, the clients of Seasons House need access to meals, medical care and a roof over their heads, at the very least. Like it or not, these residents are part of our community. Let’s come up with a viable solution for them, before they end up sleeping rough in your backyard.
Quesnel Cariboo Observer