Thursday, April 16, 2020

Fisherman's Hall to be used as temporary homeless shelter as part of COVID-19 response

Prince Rupert's Fisherman's Hall will soon take on the role as a temporary
shelter for the homeless, taking the place of the Third Avenue Shelter

Prince Rupert's Homeless may soon have a new home ... and before too much time passes, a temporary fix will soon be a permanent space.

Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain got the drop on MLA Jennifer Rice this afternoon, breaking the local news that Prince Rupert's Fisherman's Hall will be the new location for a homeless shelter on a temporary basis, that in response to the COVID-19 health emergency in British Columbian.

In what Mr. Brain notes is a joint statement in partnership with BC Housing posted to his Facebook page shortly after 5PM, the Mayor outlined how two locations have been secured by a collective of community groups, including the City of Prince Rupert.

Two new sites have been confirmed in Prince Rupert and will be opening in the coming days. One site is the Fisherman's Hall that will provide 35 spaces and the second site includes 20 rooms at a local hotel. 

 BC Housing has negotiated a temporary lease with the Fisherman's Hall to relocate the existing temporary shelter at 3rd Avenue.

The new space at Fishermen’s Hall is large enough to accommodate more beds and provide appropriate distancing. Minor renovations are underway to ensure health and safety for clients and staff. 

Both sites will be targeted to those who are precariously housed or experiencing homelessness and need a safe space to self-isolate. Over the coming days and weeks, BC Housing will work with the housing provider and Northern Health to finalize a referral process for these sites and start to move people in.

The full statement from the Mayor can be found here.

Shortly after the Mayor's announcement, one from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice was released, confirming many of the basic themes of the Mayor's notes.

"I’m happy to confirm that BC Housing and the North Coast Transition Society have secured Fisherman’s Hall as a new site for the Third Avenue homeless shelter. 

I’m thankful to the amazing staff and administration of the Society and BC Housing for their tireless work and commitment to finding a solution for our community, which made this possible. 

The new location at the Fisherman’s Hall will provide a place for those in our community experiencing homelessness during these difficult times to stay safe and warm while physically distancing. "- Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast .

There are however, a few inconsistencies to be found in the scope of today's announcements, the first coming by way of how the Mayor frames the City's involvement in the search for the facilities.

Something that did not seem to be a likely outcome following his March 26th statement following the BC government's  suspension of the Local State of Emergency in Prince Rupert.

A point in recent time, where the Mayor and City Council appeared to have handed off all responsibility on issues of homelessness to the local MLA.

"Unfortunately any community issues moving forward regarding housing, childcare, homelessness, etc are to be sent to Jennifer Rice's office as her and her team are now in control. You can forward your concerns to Jennifer Rice by calling 250-624-7734 or e-mailing" -- Mayor Lee Brain, March 26

Ms. Rice has been working on the homeless file at full speed since the Mayor's rather terse dismissal of the city's role moving forward; working with BC Housing, North Coast Transition Society and other community partners to seek out solutions, and look to find a longer term solution towards the larger issues facing the homeless beyond the immediate COVID emergency.

The other curious twist in the long running story, is the Mayor's note today that the city had not issued a notice to the North Coast Transition Society to vacate the existing shelter space on 3rd Avenue, that was a significant concern that was relayed by the MLA earlier this month,

Though it should be noted, that the reference to the city's notice was as Ms. Rice observes, addressed to the Minister of Housing Selina Robinson and not BC Housing.

"I received a phone call from the Minister of Housing on Monday informing me that the city of Prince Rupert had just sent a letter to the Province demanding the current shelter be shut down immediately. 

 We are striving to meet the immediate needs of this population during COVID-19 and are looking for a more permanent location longer-term. We are very close to having a solution formalized." --MLA Jennifer Rice, April 2 

The North Coast Review had attempted to learn more of the Mayor and City's position on the Third Avenue Shelter by way of email at the time of the MLA's observation, a correspondence that still has not been responded to.

A story today in the Northern View newspaper does appear to speak to the Mayor's narrative of some elements of the recent weeks; with reporter KJ Millar citing their interview with BC Housing Communication specialist Samantha Cacino on that theme.

"Cacino wanted to clarify that the City has not issued a notice to North Coast Transition Society to vacate the existing shelter and as such the NCTS is not being evicted."

All of which leaves one to wonder if one government department, perhaps wasn't talking with the other during this period, leaving a significant gap in the timeline of events.

It's all a curious bit of mixed messaging, where further clarification on the elements of the last two weeks will need to come from the MLA's office, or Ministry of Housing it would seem.

As for the political intrigue, while fascinating to view and leaving many questions to answer it would seem, for the moment it is a secondary theme.

The real focus as it should be is on the work ahead to ensure that the homeless do have proper and safe accommodation, particularly in these urgent times of Pandemic.

And for those in the most need, the solutions offered today surely make for a better station in life than that which they currently face and regardless of how many people take a bow at this point, that's really the most important news of the day.

More notes related to housing in the Northwest can be reviewed from our archive page.

1 comment:

  1. I doubt if MLA Jennifer Rice is concerned about the mayor breaking the news first on his personal news site. Passing on news about what others are doing seems to be about all he does these days.

    Taking bows is not Jennifer's style. She is very clear in her announcement that it was BC Housing and Transition Society (who the mayor doesn't mention) who should be acknowledged for their hard work and commitment.