‘There needs to be a reset’ Chronic staff turnover and lack of community confidence contribute to growing sentiment that Coquitlam homeless shelter is in crisis, according to new report

3030 Gordon Avenue. Google Image

Amid complaints ranging from drug use to vandalism to threats and assaults at local businesses, many community members feel the 3030 Gordon Avenue shelter has been “going through a crisis,” according to a recent report.

Written on behalf of B.C. Housing, the report makes a series of recommendations to improve the shelter, which provides transitional housing for 30 people, as well as emergency shelter space. The report was based largely on responses from the shelter’s residents, its staffers and management, as well as local first responders and health and social service providers.

The report was written following concerns raised by both community members and municipal leaders.


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To read about the province’s response to the report, click here.

While many community members were initially “very pleased” with management when the shelter opened in 2015, subsequent turnover and loss of leadership coincided with a downward slide over the course of about five years, according to stakeholders.

The shelter under construction. photos supplied Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group

Some community members said they’ve stopped sharing their concerns with RainCity as: “they no longer have confidence” management will respond to their concerns.

There’s a general sense that “there needs to be a reset,” the report stated, noting that many feel the shelter is “endangering community support and compassion.”

The shelter is the most frequent stop for Coquitlam Fire and Rescue, who tend to get called for medical incidents including overdoses as well as a “considerable number of fires,” according to the report.

“The biggest concern is the toxic drug use and the cooking and/or smoking of drugs that occur at 3030 Gordon, which are the biggest cause of the fires,” the report stated.

Police have also dealt with a “substantial increase in missing person reports” at the shelter in recent years, according to the report.

Coquitlam’s bylaw officers also attend the area regularly to clean up trash or take down tents and other structures erected on the empty lot next to the shelter. However, there are generally “very few issues” associated with the shelter’s transitional housing residents, according to the report. About 25 percent of disturbances are associated with shelter residents and a “large majority” are linked to non-residents.

Some observers complained of frequent crowds of 10 or more people lingering outside the shelter.

“It’s strongly suspected that some of these individuals are supplying drugs to residents,” according to stakeholders.

While staff sweep the surrounding area for needles and syringes, those sweeps aren’t as frequent as they once were, with many stakeholders reporting finding sharps – needles and syringes – as well as discarded harm reduction kits around 3030 Gordon.

The problem with 90 days

With some residents living at the shelter for two years or more, there’s a concern 3030 Gordon “has moved away from its original purpose,” with transitional housing turning into long-term accommodations.

A substantial number of residents have been there for an “extended residency” and aren’t moving out to other housing.

RainCity is in the process of bringing back their 90-day-stay policy. However, applying that policy to every resident could mean turning the shelter into a revolving door program as residents who aren’t recovered at the end of three months end up relapsing, according to the report.

The shelter also faces a major challenge due to the “scarcity of shelter and housing options in the community,” which leaves 3030 Gordon to face an “overwhelming demand” of people seeking shelter and housing – a significant proportion of whom suffer from mental health problems, addiction, or both.

While RainCity has provided some housing subsidies, the absence of local housing options makes it “very challenging to move people out of transitional housing,” according to the report.

“Many of the residents at 3030 Gordon are originally from the Tri-Cities area and want to remain in the community,” the report stated.

One person staying at the shelter expressed a desire to move out to make space for someone else but found nothing they could afford. Another resident said they lost their rental after the place was renovated and the new rent was more than they could afford.

The Tri-Cities are also in need of affordable and supportive housing to meet the needs of the residents who are ready to move out, the report stated.

‘Chronic’ staff troubles

High staff turnover has resulted in “operational challenges” for RainCity, the report stated. That exodus of employees has also resulted in many observers becoming increasingly concerned RainCity has “disengaged from the community.”

Turnover in the shelter’s management and leadership has “compromised the implementation of a coherent strategy and standards at the site,” according to many stakeholders who were surveyed for the report.

While all organizations have some turnover, “it’s generally felt that this has become a chronic condition at 3030 Gordon,” according to the report.

Currently, the shelter has managers, four daytime staffers, and four night-shift workers.

The province should “strongly encourage” RainCity to keep a consistent management team to improve relations with the community, according to the report.

The report also noted the struggles faced by staffers, including daily ethical dilemmas.

If the staffers can’t accommodate someone seeking shelter, “they end up exposing them to the dangers of street living.”

“It’s an especially difficult field to work in when the good work that’s being doing is not acknowledged or appreciated by the broader community,” according to a stakeholder interviewed for the report.

From inside

Despite problems, a majority of residents at the shelter reported being generally satisfied with conditions as well as feeling generally safe. Most also said their health was stabilized and their overall well-being was improved.

However, some residents expressed concerns that the approach to harm reduction at 3030 Gordon made it too convenient for people with addictions to keep taking drugs. Residents also stressed the importance of keeping violent people – both residents and visitors – out of the shelter.

The shelter generally follows a “three strikes” policy where repeatedly breaking rules results in a resident’s eviction and a subsequent wait period before they can get back in.

‘Reasonably well’

The shelter may have been “unfairly positioned as the ‘one stop shop’” for addiction and homelessness, according to some observers quoted in the report.

“It’s clear now that this model is ineffective and other housing and support stages need to be developed,” the report stated.

Despite those criticisms, there is also a contingent who said RainCity managed “reasonably well” considering the challenges of helping a homeless population amid the opioid crisis, a recent pandemic and the ongoing housing crisis.


To improve conditions at the shelter, RainCity should update cleaning protocols to ensure garbage and sharps are cleaned off the sidewalk and adjacent areas.

The report also recommended an outreach team who would be on the streets five or six days a week to build a rapport with entrenched homeless people, guiding them to support services like income assistance, as well as addiction services and healthcare.

RainCity should designate a communications person to handle questions and complaints from first responders, Coquitlam’s bylaw department as well as local businesses and property owners.

The report also recommended RainCity have employees who make sure shelter residents meet with health service providers both on the site and at clinics and doctors offices.

The report also recommended bringing in a therapist who deals with hoarding to reduce clutter inside the building.

Harm reduction room

The shelter should restrict drug use in common areas and instead establish a harm reduction room on the site.

In addition to informing residents about deaths of fellow residents in a “timely and sensitive manner” RainCity should also offer grief counselling to residents as well as staff, according to the report.

RainCity should also make sure support workers are properly trained and have manageable case loads.

A shelter representative should go to all meetings of the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group, according to the report.


To support those improvements, B.C. Housing needs to ensure RainCity has “adequate levels of funding,” according to the report.

That funding would go toward healthcare and mental health services for shelter residents as well as street outreach services for the homeless people who tend to congregate around the building.

That funding also needs to support staff training and development.

Across the board

The Tri-Cities should consider establishing a safe consumption site to provide a “safe, clean space for people to bring their own drugs to use, in the presence of trained staff,” according to the report.

There should be more mental health services, more detox and rehab spaces, and integrated services to help people go from one space to another in the Tri-Cities, according to the report.

The Tri-Cities should also consider establishing one or two spots where homeless people can get a meal, a shower, do some laundry and get access to basic healthcare as well as services like income assistance.

Helping younger people

Some of the respondents reported seeing a “growing desperation” from addicted people trying to get into recovery.

One organization noted they’ve been “progressively seeing a younger demographic getting into drugs and struggling to recover.”

To provide a greater spectrum of care, the Tri-Cities could also provide shelter services for people 18 and younger.

Completed by Harry Cummings & Associates on behalf of B.C. Housing, the report was based on 97 respondents including the shelter’s management and staffers, 33 shelter residents, as well as representatives from police, fire departments, health and social service providers, and representatives from Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.


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