Thirty-five vulnerable folks in Coquitlam will have a roof over their heads for at least another 12 months, following the signing of an 11th hour extension agreement with the province last week.
Operated by the Phoenix Society, the Best Western SureStay Hotel on Brunette Avenue has been providing shelter for people who might otherwise be homeless since 2020 – in part to stem the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless population.
With their lease set to expire March 31, the Phoenix Society and B.C. Housing inked a one-year extension. The down-to-the-wire deal stirred up mixed feelings, according to Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald.
“On the one hand it’s relief and on the other hand it’s: where will we be in another 12 months?” he asked. “Without any sense of a longer, more sustainable plan, I’m worried we’ll be back here next March.”
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With some positive signs but no concrete assurances in the lead-up to the deadline, Phoenix Society had stopped taking in new people at the hotel. However, the newly inked agreement means they’ll reactive the intake program and receive referrals, according to Macdonald.
Struggle for workers
Keeping staff members without guaranteed funding also proved a challenge, he added.
“The uncertainty, unfortunately, always results in losing staff,” he said.
The signing of the one-year extension coincided with the closure of extreme weather shelters.
“We hit this week with . . . something like 50 fewer beds to support people,” he said.
The situation is a reminder of the need for collaboration between provincial/federal funding and municipal land-use strategies, according to Macdonald.
“I’m just really calling on B.C. Housing and the municipalities to work together to find a solution,” he said. “Different levels of government need to work together to identify a piece of land and to start working toward a solution that brings us past next March.”