YESTERDAY, KAMLOOPS CITY COUNCIL wanted more order at the city’s supportive housing sites. And they decided that to get order, restrictions and requirements would be imposed.
In a first motion, the council imposed the requirement for 24/7 on-site security, daily on-site nursing staff (if required), and weekly mental health and addictions counselling. In another motion, there is now a requirement that all existing and new B.C. housing projects provide support services and public washrooms.
Nowhere in all of these motions was there dollars attached. The City Council has imposed onerous costs on service providers such as Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Kamloops, and ASK Wellness who provide supportive housing.
Nowhere in the motions was there recognition that service providers receive almost all their funding from BC Housing and Interior Health. There is no guarantee that BC Housing or Interior Health will provide additional funds to cover the new restrictions.
If those agencies are not able to fund the new requirements, existing and new housing options in Kamloops are jeopardized.
For decades, Kamloops has been a success story in building housing options for people with different needs. BC Housing has consistently funded supportive housing projects in this city.
There is Emerald House and Rosethorn House on West Victoria, as well as Henry Leland House on St. Paul Street. Crossroads, the Blue House, and old Fountain Motel are also downtown. On the Northshore is Spero House.
There is Mission Flats housing, and the old Maverick Motor Inn in Aberdeen. Five apartments around the city provide supportive housing around the city are run by Elizabeth Fry, John Howard and others. Most operate quietly with few problems.
City council has provided a ham-fisted solution across the board. In the end, the people in need of supportive housing will suffer, as fewer options will be available.
It will likely also reduce future projects. For example, in the works by A Way Home is a new project for supportive housing for youth facing homelessness. But that plan looks threatened. Suddenly, the costs of providing the housing have escalated because of City council restrictions.
Other service providers looking at new projects, and no doubt BC Housing as well, will have second thoughts about whether they can afford City council’s new restrictions.
There are certainly problems at some supportive housing sites, some of the time. But what about other types of housing, and their problems?
There have been fires, assaults, and murders at city motels. City council hasn’t imposed similar restrictive bylaws on all city motels. That’s because the City has nuisance bylaws to deal with problem behavior and the RCMP to deal with criminal behavior at motels. These are available for supportive housing as well.
Yesterday’s decision, while well-meaning to help provide order, lacks dollars to put it into place. It’s a one-size fits-all solution that doesn’t acknowledge that the varied needs of different supportive housing sites. As well, increased costs will force service providers to restrict current or future services.
Kamloops has been a city that BC Housing has consistently worked with for decades to fund housing options for a range of people. There has been a strong partnership between city service providers, BC Housing and City of Kamloops. Yesterday’s decision by City Council has weakened that partnership considerably.
City council may want order at our supportive housing sites, but opposite has just been created.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.