Trail’s Community Action Team is calling again on city council to renew the permit that allows the La Nina homeless shelter to operate downtown.
“There’s a very real chance council will vote against that and the shelter would close,” says co-chair Diana Daghofer. “If we take away the shelter, people will have no other options. They’ll be out on the streets.”
The matter is expected to be back before council on Sept. 26, four days before the permit is set to expire. Council delayed a decision last month to seek a legal opinion on whether they could issue the permit for three years but cancel it sooner. That followed three hours of presentations and discussion.
Daghofer says there are definitely problems downtown, but she doesn’t see how denying the permit extension would help.
“I understand the councillors are under a lot of pressure,” she says. “Businesses, rightly so, are struggling with what to do. I understand their concerns. But I can’t for the life of me see how closing the shelter, how taking away the building where these folks have somewhere to go during the day, could possibly improve the conditions.”
Daghofer says people who use the 18-bed shelter are there because they have nowhere else to go. She says it provides an important link to services for some of the city’s most disadvantaged.
She adds the shelter was not designed to provide the full range of services people with mental health and substance use issues need to stabilize their lives.
BC Housing says it wants to establish supportive housing at another location, but has been unable to find a suitable spot. Even if a location is found, it’s expected to take a while to get it up and running.
Originally the shelter was set up with eight beds for the winter. However, since COVID struck, it has operated year-round. A year ago council agreed to expand the capacity to 18 beds.
“As a community we’d be a lot further ahead if we all pulled together to get those additional services rather than to fight each other on something I don’t think is going to result in any improvement,” Daghofer says. “It will definitely deteriorate the conditions in the community.”
Without the permit renewal, the shelter could continue to operate as before at reduced capacity. But manager Sheila Adcock says that would still be untenable.
“Even with extended capacity, our shelter is full to overflowing every night with people who have nowhere else to go for a safe bed, decent meals and bathroom facilities,” she said in a news release.
“Dropping back down to eight beds would shut out the majority of those seeking a safe refuge. It would put staff in the impossible position of choosing among those in need of shelter and leaving the rest on the streets. The resulting distress would cause unsafe conditions, for staff, those seeking shelter and our community.”
According to Adcock, the shelter serves an average of 37 people per day, nearly all of whom are from Trail proper.