For the second straight year, a down-to-the-wire deal prevented the closure of the SureStay Hotel temporary homeless shelter on Brunette Avenue.
With the lease set to expire at the end of the month, B.C. Housing announced this week that the temporary shelter’s 29 residents of the hotel can stay until March 31, 2024.
The news is welcome and also a relief, according to TriCities Homelessness and Housing Task Group coordinator Polly Krier.
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“We know this is our last opportunity to extend this temporary service,” Krier said.
Krier called on all levels of government to find “severely needed” permanent housing solutions for Tri-Cities residents who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
“It is unrealistic for these folks to leave their home community to find housing and receive services,” Krier wrote in an email to the Dispatch.
After March 31, 2024, that status of the hotel as an emergency centre is “unknown,” according to BC Housing.
“BC Housing will continue to work with the City of Coquitlam, Tri-Cities communities and our partners on identifying permanent housing solutions,” stated a release from B.C. Housing to the Dispatch.
Operated by the Phoenix Society, the hotel was initially converted into a temporary emergency shelter in May 2020, in part to stem the spread of COVID-19 among the city’s homeless population.
The shelter was meant to serve as transitional housing. However, with no affordable housing to transition into, the shelter became permanent for some residents, explained Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group co-chair Cristina Pereira.
“There’s just a lack of supply,” Pereira told the Dispatch earlier this year. “Ideally, we would’ve been able to have transitioned them throughout the last couple of years into more permanent housing.”
For many shelter residents, the only viable financial option is to pay shelter rates.
“Affordable housing, quote-unquote, isn’t going to cut it. They’re not in that income bracket,” she explained.
This time next year
Speaking to the Dispatch in 2022, the now-former Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald expressed mixed feelings about the previous 11th hour lease extension.
“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.”