‘Just a lack of supply’ Homelessness task force scrambles to find housing as Coquitlam shelter shuts down

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A Coquitlam homeless shelter is set to close its doors at the end of March, putting 28 residents at risk of homelessness.

The SureStay Hotel on Brunette Avenue 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 lease is set to expire on March 31, leaving the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group struggling to find affordable housing for the shelter residents, explained co-chair Cristina Pereira.

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“That is proving to be a challenge,” she said. “There’s just a lack of supply.”

The SureStay shelter, which is operated by the Phoenix Society, was intended to be transitional housing, Pereira explained. However, with nothing to transition into, it became permanent for some residents.

“Ideally, we would’ve been able to have transitioned them throughout the last couple of years into more permanent housing.”

Now, with approximately 10 weeks to go, the situation is looking dire.

“It’s going to be really tough,” Pereira said. “Let’s be honest, they’ve been working at this since last year; since two years ago.”

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.

The situation is critical, explained Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group coordinator Polly Krier.

“We are seeking the support of our municipal leaders and commercial property owners to work with B.C. Housing to urgently identify an alternative location,” she wrote in an email to the Dispatch.

‘Looking at permanent solutions’

B.C. Housing is exploring options to ensure the residents “are not displaced onto the streets,” according to a statement from the ministry.

“While we explore options to house the hotel’s existing clients, we are also looking at permanent solutions to house people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Coquitlam and the Tri-Cities,” according to a statement released by B.C. Housing. “This includes working with community partners to identify possible sites to build new, permanent supportive housing.”

This time last year

The least was initially set to expire in the spring of 2022. However, the shelter continued to operate following the signing of an 11th hour extension.

Speaking to the Dispatch in 2022, the now-former Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald expressed mixed feelings about the deal.

“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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