Smithers looks at homeless issue

Concrete steps were taken to address Smithers' homeless problem before winter begins at a meeting Tuesday night.

  • Sep. 4, 2013 1:00 p.m.

Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach leads a discussion on homelessness Tuesday night.

Concrete steps were taken to address Smithers’ homeless problem before winter begins at a council of the whole meeting at Town Hall Tuesday night.

A room full of community health professionals gathered with town councillors to brainstorm ways to deal with the short-term needs of the homeless community before the mercury drops.

“This has to happen now. This is an emergency. People need to have shelter,” said Joan LeClair with the Smithers Action Group Association.

Organizations such as the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society, Office of the Wet’suwet’en, Northern Health and Positive Living North were in attendance at the meeting.

LeClair estimated the Smithers homeless population to be at between 50 and 100 and said she knows of three people who died last year due to the effects of sleeping outdoors.

Strategies such as building permanent tent camps, gaining access to spaces at churches and gymnasiums, looking at renting available motel rooms, using modified shipping containers and utilizing vacant buildings were all thrown around as possible short-term solutions.

By the end of the two-hour session, High Road Services Society executive director Dana Gorbahn pledged to plead with his board for the budget to purchase and set up three temporary housing structures on land they own on 16th Ave., across from the Hilltop Pub.

While council and staff said the location on 16th Ave. and Main St. is still up for debate, most seemed to agree the proposal could work for the coming winter.

Three shelters could accommodate up to 12 people.

High Road would coordinate health care for the individuals living in the units.

“Another key important part is they’ll have a specific location so they can access health care, get a post office box, get identification,” Gorbahn said. “You can’t get those things unless you have a physical location so this could help them achieve those kinds of things.”

High Road Services Society is one organization that is currently working on building a supportive housing project in Smithers.

The other is the Smithers Action Group Association. Town council has given that group a piece of land for a development they are working on.

The SAGA project would allow homeless people to have their own space and access to health care services, LeClair said.

“There’s a number of models for this kind of housing. The Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver is one great model. It’s a home for people and they get the support they need, preventatively, before things happen.”

But this supportive housing development is as many as five years away from reality.

At the meeting, Smithers councillors also approved a motion to speak with BC Housing to see what emergency funding they have that could be used to address the need.

For the complete story, see the Sept. 11 edition of The Interior News.


Just Posted

Steelheads recruiting event shows promise

A small but enthusiastic group of organizers is hoping to put a Smithers team back in the CIHL

New wildlife regs amount to privatization

Editor, With the stroke of a pen, Minister Donaldson has made the… Continue reading

Fletcher disregards facts on climate action

Letter writer Macrae says inaction jeopardizes jobs

Open letter to the minister of education on school violence

Dear Minister Flemming, On May 24 of last year I had the… Continue reading

Indigenous health care a major topic for Northern Health

Health care access and new medical resource written entirely in Gitxsan on Northern Health agenda

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Should B.C. parents receive money if they make sure their kids are vaccinated?

New survey looks at public opinion around government’s role in forcing immunizations

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man accused in daughters’ murder

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

‘Cutthroat’ sport of wine tasting happening in B.C.

BC Tasting Games are underway with competitions in three Okanagan communities.

Early data suggests no post-legalization spike in drug-impaired driving charges

Many police departments are prioritizing investigations related to drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine

VIDEO: Greater Victoria shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident, say police

One person in custody, another fled following shooting and crash on West Shore

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

Most Read