On Monday, Trail city council will face its first major test since being elected in October when it decides whether to approve a permit to move the homeless shelter to the Gulch.
Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone in the neighbourhood likes the idea.
After placing a notice about the idea last week, the city received more than two dozen emails and letters, most raising objections. No one spoke overtly in favour, although some just posed questions and one business owner said he is not opposed but would like to see improvements to pedestrian safety.
The shelter is meant to be temporary until a long-term supportive housing project can be created. It would go at 585 Rossland Avenue, on a vacant city-owned lot next to the truck chain-up area. BC Housing would assemble several modular units on the site.
Trail city staff are recommending a temporary use permit be approved for three years on the condition that BC Housing and the shelter operator work with neighbours on security and to “lessen and minimize the negative experience” that could result.
But the president of the Colombo Lodge, which is kitty corner to the site, said the shelter would not conform to the official community plan since Rossland Avenue is one of the three primary entrances to the city.
“For the past few years, the Colombo Lodge has suffered financially because of COVID and now we are starting to get bookings again,” Alex Coutts wrote. “With your plans to move the homeless shelter across from the Colombo Lodge we are worried those bookings will drop off again or cancel.
“Are the ladies and guests going to feel safe with the homeless shelter across the street based on the issues and impacts to date to the business community in downtown Trail?”
Others said the shelter should be placed near the old bridge or suggested moving the shelter will do little to address homelessness in Trail.
The previous council gave BC Housing a deadline of the end of this September to move the shelter from its present location in the alley between Bay and Cedar Avenues.
City staff say if the permit is not approved, they don’t expect to find another location before the current shelter’s permit expires, resulting in its closure.
BC Housing vice-president Sara Goldvine said in an interview that while they had several criteria that needed to be met, the City of Trail who suggested the Rossland Avenue site.
“Choosing sites is always a shared responsibility of the province and municipality,” she said. “We always look at different sites. Trail is small and the land is relatively constrained. It was clear from the city’s perspective that Rossland Avenue was the best choice.”
Goldvine said the lot is serviced, and while it is out of the downtown core, it is still close to services.
She said BC Housing has used modular units elsewhere in the interior and find it to be a good way of putting a shelter together much more quickly than building from the ground up. Even so, because the shelter will be purpose-built, she said the design will be an improvement on the current shelter.
“The core services will be the same. Connections to health care, options for meals, showers, sleep, and laundry. But with this site we’re going to be building individual rooms so people will have access to their own spaces, which helps with dignity, privacy, and safety.”
While the shelter would have 18 beds as with the existing ones, it would also have the ability to add more short-term spaces during extreme weather.
“Nobody wants to see people sleeping on the street or in parks. I have confidence in the community that we can come together around a solution.”
She said their ultimate goal is to move people from the shelter to permanent housing.