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Weather delay for supportive housing

BC Housing still aims to have homeless or at-risk tenants at Railway and Queen by this fall.
Lisa Glaim from Smithers has been living on the street for the last 10 years. She said at a January meeting any housing needs to allow her dogs Hannah (left) and Booboo. The decision to allow pets has yet to be made. (Chris Gareau photo)

This past winter’s heavy snowfall has slightly delayed initial site examination and preparation for BC Housing’s planned supportive housing project on the corner of Railway Avenue and Queen Street in Smithers.

But that work has now been completed and BC Housing, the provincial crown agency responsible for housing, is proceeding with the goal of having the 24-unit modular housing project completed and tenants moved in this fall.

“BC Housing is currently in negotiations to secure a builder” with the latter to both construct the units and then assemble them on site, said BC Housing in a statement last week.

The Smithers Community Services Association (SCSA) will be responsible for the project’s operations and, in conjunction with Northern Health, will provide support services.

The Town of Smithers owns the corner lot and is leasing it to BC Housing for 40 years.

“This project is still in the preliminary development stage and BC Housing and the [Smithers Community Services Association] will be reviewing tenant applications in the fall for an expected tenancy date of fall 2018,” indicated BC Housing.

Each of the units will be self sufficient, including a kitchen, but meals will also be provided as part of a package of services. There’ll be a 24-hour, on-site presence by SCSA.

The tenant focus will be on people over the age of 19 who are now homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.

No pets decision yet

One unresolved tenant issue is whether the project will accept people who have pets, a subject that came up at a public meeting held in January to discuss what’s planned. The SCSA has not yet decided if pets will be allowed.

Speaking last week, Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said he can fully understand that some tenants will want to have pets.

“I know it’s become an issue. When it comes to a choice between sleeping in the bush with a pet or being in housing without a pet, some [people] may opt for the former,” he said.

“I could see pets being allowed as long as they’re well-managed,” the mayor added.

But given that this project will be a form of a tenant-landlord relationship, the Town won’t be involved in any discussion surrounding pet acceptance, Bachrach said.

An attempt to determine exactly how many people in Smithers are homeless took place yesterday, a count financed by the Province with Smithers being one of 12 communities across the province receiving assistance to do so.

The last such count took place here in 2014 and 22 people were found to be homeless. Of that number, 92 per cent identified as Indigenous compared to 12 per cent of the overall Smithers population who identifies as Indigenous.