Yacht Club, Columbia Precinct buildings suggested for temporary shelters, city staff report says

Other shelter spaces eyed

The City of Kamloops had looked into using two downtown properties — the Yacht Club and vacant government buildings near the courthouse — as temporary homeless shelters, according to a staff report from a closed council meeting held in October.

The report shows motions put forward during two closed council meetings, held on July 20 and Oct. 19, to discuss potential solutions to address the need for more temporary shelter space in the city.

According to the report, on Oct. 19, council voted in favour of a motion authorizing city staff to “advise BC Housing to secure a lease, if possible,” for shelter space in Columbia Precinct.

The property, located at Sixth Avenue and Columbia Street, is provincially owned, and currently houses a number of vacant buildings.

Council also voted in favour of advising BC Housing to secure a lease for temporary shelter use at the former Greyhound bus depot — an arrangement that was secured, as BC Housing announced on Nov. 9.

This shelter will be named Merit Place, and will open 50 beds in early 2022 after undergoing some renovations, according to BC Housing.

The majority of council members then voted in favour of authorizing staff to establish a short-term license with BC Housing to use the Stuart Wood gymnasium as a shelter “if sufficient shelter space for the city’s unsheltered population of individuals is not achieved” through securing the Greyhound bus depot or the Columbia Precinct.

According to the report, if there weren’t enough spaces able to be secured through the first three options, the city looked to the Yacht Club as being a possible space to house those seeking shelter until April 30 2022.

Staff was instructed to “transition Memorial Arena back to recreational use once 50 alternate shelter spaces, not including the shelter at 600 Kingston Ave., have been established.”

On Nov. 9, BC Housing announced the provincial government, in cooperation with the City of Kamloops, had secured three spaces for use as temporary shelters.

Shelters will be opened in the former Stuart Wood school building downtown, and at a city-owned lot on Kingston Avenue in the North Shore, in addition to the shelter at the former Greyhound depot.

According to the staff report, the Kingston Avenue property had been brought forward as a suggestion to council in the July 20 closed council meeting.

The report said BC Housing would be leasing the property at $1 per year to allow a 40-bed shelter and commercial kitchen facility to operate for three years, with the possibility of extension for two more one-year periods.

According to the report, staff said since closed council meetings took place, city staff, BC Housing and shelter operator Canadian Mental Health Association have spoken directly with neighbourhood associations, Memorial Arena user groups, business improvement associations and other stakeholders surrounding the new shelter locations.

“These partners will also be hosting virtual community engagement sessions to provide a balanced discussion and a respectful environment to hear diverse perspectives, provide information and understand community concerns,” the report said.

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