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Trail not giving up on new shelter location, mayor says

We spoke with Trail mayor Colleen Jones following city council’s 6-1 decision Monday night to reject a proposal to move the city’s homeless shelter to a vacant lot in the Gulch. The decision puts the shelter’s future in doubt, as it has to leave its current location downtown by Sept. 30, based on an earlier council decision. BC Housing says it is not sure it can find another alternative before then.

What do you think of council’s decision?
Council did their homework, researching and talking to people and going back to old council meetings and reading what previous council had done. They made the decision based on the information they had, which we would expect. They certainly were very clear that we want to continue working with BC Housing. We just don’t feel this is the appropriate place to put the shelter.

So now what?
We did say we wanted to get together again with BC Housing and talk about solutions. Bring in the community so they can be a part of it. That was another big issue. The community members felt they weren’t involved in any of the decisions. We did talk about striking a committee to work with BC Housing, Interior Health, all the stakeholders, bring everybody to the table and see if we can find a place that’s suitable. I understand nobody wants it in their backyard, but this just wasn’t the right backyard for council at this time.

How optimistic are you that something can be found by Sept. 30?
I’m hoping the community is paying attention and somebody can come forward with some suggestions of property they own. We’ve had some good ideas come forward. Unfortunately, they didn’t suit BC Housing’s footprint of what the shelter needs for space. Hopefully we can continue looking. My concern is after March 31, funding won’t be there for this shelter. We have to start working quickly and hard to find something.

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What happens after March 31?
My understanding is the funding we have been given at this point might not be available, and then we have to go through the whole process of looking at the cost of something that will fit into the community all over again. We’re in a time crunch but council is dedicated to making something work. We’re ready to get busy and do the hard work.

We heard this week that some potential locations were ruled out because they were in the flood plain.
Yes, in the flood plain or [due to] people’s asking prices. Unfortunately, when BC Housing or the City of Trail is involved, the asking price escalates. That makes it difficult for us to work with community members to find an area that is suitable.

Does it need to be within city limits?
It needs to be close to city limits because that’s where the services are. We can’t go too far out of town because it makes it difficult for the shelter guests to get the services they need. That does have to be considered when we look at a piece of property that would be suitable.

Anything you would like to add?
Council is very connected to this issue and we are going to see if we can bring something back to the community that would resolve this situation. It’s not something we’re taking lightly. It is one of our priorities. Hopefully we can come up with a solution of some sort. I have no idea what that’s going to look like but we’re willing to work.

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