The Board of directors of Seasons House would like to take this opportunity to address the controversy over the proposed Elliott Street Supportive Housing project.
Up until this point, we have followed the advice of our colleagues at BC Housing and have not responded to the misinformation being spread by Quesnel’s Mayor Bob Simpson about our organization. In light of the city’s refusal to go forward with the current proposal without our contract going to tender, we would like to set the record straight.
Ten years ago the Quesnel Shelter and Support Society acquired funding and created the current shelter, responding to the growing problem of homelessness that was identified in our community. Since that time our staff have worked tirelessly to address the problems facing our clients here in Quesnel.
In face of these social problems, we have worked creatively with inadequate budgets and facilities to assist and support the most vulnerable in our society. These are the most difficult people to help and we are the last resort for people who fall through the cracks and are not welcome anywhere else in this city.
In spite of the growing needs, we have received no support from City of Quesnel representatives at all. At no time did someone offer assistance to lobby for more funding or resources to help with these growing concerns. There has been no acknowledgement of our efforts to serve our most vulnerable citizens and, in fact, we have been ridiculed through this process for bringing in services to meet our clienteles dire needs; services that other communities are begging for and that are recommended and supported by our provincial partners who are experts in this work.
Our society has been scape-goated for the visible social problems because of the inadequacy of our facility and the abhorrent lack of mental health and addictions supports available to them.
Our staff saves lives. The current public health crisis is very much apparent in Quesnel. We have lost several community members, friends and family.
Seasons House has led the local overdose response, training hundreds of individuals and distributing over 400 Naloxone kits this year alone, the highest in Northern Health. Despite this, we receive no extra funding and provide this service off the corner of our desk because the individuals we serve matter to us.
We know when people engage in compassionate and caring service they are more likely to make positive steps to wellness. We also know when people feel judged and stigmatized, substance use in our communities increases. We have received no credit from the city for any of this work but we have been recognized provincially and many shelters and housing sites are moving towards the model we have been practising for 10 years.
Through this process we have been witness to an outpouring of majority support towards this project; from the individuals who came out to the previous open house and public hearing, to the many letters that were written in support of our organization moving forward with this project. If the city has complaints from the public, they have not been shared with us in a collaborative process where we could have worked together to find solutions.
Instead, there has been innuendo and accusations that are not based on reliable evidence. The mayor accuses us of untrustworthiness, which is completely without basis. We have a solid working relationship with BC Housing, and up until now, this relationship was never compromised or questioned.
This housing project, like the other housing projects that have been recently undertaken in the city that the mayor continues to take credit for, are the result of hard work of the Lions Club, Dakelh Housing Society and Seasons House.
We have lobbied and worked for the funding we are now seeing committed to our community for many years. We now have $6 million to build a long overdue supported housing facility in Quesnel. This is a real opportunity and it is disturbing that our work is being stymied by our mayor.
Mayor Bob Simpson has questioned our integrity and placed doubt in the minds of our fellow community members who chose to show us support by texting and e-mailing them privately. Mayor Simpson behind the scenes flew to have private meetings with both the Minister of Housing and the CEO of BC Housing to pressure them to have our contract go to RFP. The mayor has also pressured many members of our board through their employment and prevented them from speaking out and using their voices rendering our volunteer board speechless at times during this process.
He may have paid lip service to harm reduction in his speeches but has shown a callous lack of leadership on this project. Rather than coming to the table to help us move forward with our housing project, mayor and council have put up endless roadblocks.
In our minds, the only question of integrity and trustworthiness should be placed on that of the mayor.
We know we have a lot of support among the citizens of this community. People whose lives have been directly affected, people whose families have been helped or even saved through the work of our shelter and those who are not personally effected but have a generous spirit and understand that this is the right approach to helping the least fortunate in our society.
We can no longer stand by as our hard work and, more importantly, our clients stand to lose their only sense of community. What we see in front of us from our community’s leadership is stigma, nimbyism and discrimination against the population we serve.
Seasons House is often the only place where people feel welcome, where they are accepted and have a sense of family. During the holiday season it is important to keep our minds and hearts open, to remember compassion in our interactions with our fellow human beings and being thoughtful of those who are less fortunate.
Board of directors
Quesnel Shelter and Support Society