Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Homeless situation a topic of much interest at Monday's Council session

The first comments on the city's homeless situation first came through the Committee of the Whole segment of Monday's City Council session, with two residents of the city offering up a number of comments and suggestions for Council members to take note of.

Both Larry Golden and Mike Calli took the opportunity of the open microphone of the Session to express their thoughts on the state of the city's homeless, Mr. Golden urging council to make a count of the homeless a monthly project and work to seek out some solutions to the issue, while Mr. Calli offered the prospect of directing one staff member to provide for a contact point at City Hall for the homeless.

Council took those suggestions into their Regular Council session on the evening addressing some of the points during a portion of the night dedicated towards the ongoing work of the city's Housing Committees.

Councillor Thorkelson observed during that discussion that perhaps the best way for the City to gain a fairly good idea of the state of the homeless on a monthly basis, would be to keep track of those making use of the Salvation Army soup kitchen.

An avenue which she believes would be a solid indicator of those in the community that currently are homeless or on the cusp of homelessness.

"If we want to do a count once a month, probably  in my estimation the best way to do a count every month to see if the numbers are increasing or decreasing, is by looking at the soup kitchen numbers. If the soup kitchen numbers are going up, we can pretty well say that homelessness is going up or verge of homelessness is going up"

When it came to the larger issue of how to address that situation, Councillor Thorkelson stressed the need to push BC Housing to take action on the problems that are facing those that are in the most need in the community.

Noting that through her observations she has found at least three homeless camps set up in the city, with her estimate of those that live in those camps to be a total of twenty five people, as well Ms. Thorkelson reminded Council that the need to address the issue has some urgency to it, with the cold and wet winter months still to come.

She took note of a suggestion Council has received of perhaps placing trailers on BC Housing property in the city, which for the moment could at least address the issue on a temporary nature.

"I love the idea that Mr. Krekic had, or whoever it was, of putting trailers up on BC Housing property, there are trailers around and we could get them and put them there and look at permanent low cost housing, that needs to be built in this town" -- Councillor Thorkelson pushing for one potential temporary solution to the issue of homelessness in Prince Rupert.

As well, she again mentioned that BC Housing has issued a call to property owners in the community.With the housing agency looking for apartment or hotel properties that it could convert to social housing, providing they can find a seller.

We outlined that program back in June on the blog, though judging by the observations from Councillor Thorkelson it would appear that BC Housing has not made much progress on that approach.

She also noted that with Council set to embark on the annual trek to the UBCM convention, housing is one issue that they should be taking with them, looking for support from other municipalities and reinforcing with the provincial representatives the urgency of the situation on the North Coast.

On that theme of approaching the province, one theme not addressed by Council during their review on the night was of more engagement with the North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice on the issue.

To this point, Council seems to have taken the housing issue as its main project for the year, yet so far hasn't made much progress on the file, nor made much use of the area's MLA to push their point in the Legislature.

With the Legislature set to resume later this month, bringing the MLA into a more active role on the housing issue might provide for a bit more pressure on the province and BC Housing to address the topic that has provided for a fair amount of frustration for Council in the last year.

You can review more of our notes on the Council session from our Council Timeline here.

The twin reviews of housing issues can be found from Monday night's Council Video feed, with the Committee of the Whole contributions found at the one hour twenty five minute mark, while Council's discussion of the topic arrives at the 2 hour forty two minute point, bringing the Council session to its end.

For more items related to housing see our archive page here.

Further background on City Council Discussions can be found on our dedicated Council Archive page.

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