Motion to improve extreme weather shelter planning defeated narrowly by city council

Shelter motion defeated

A motion presented by three city councillors suggesting an improved process for planning shelter spaces in advance of extreme weather was narrowly defeated in council on Tuesday.

Councillors Sadie Hunter, Dale Bass and Kathy Sinclair introduced the motion, suggesting city staff work with BC Housing and other partners to set up temporary, accessible shelters and day spaces for unhoused people in Kamloops by April and October annually.

BC Housing or city staff would present results of their planning twice per year to council.

While the motion had Coun. Arjun Singh’s support, other councillors said the city is already on the right track, and a new motion could sidetrack staff and delay other efforts to help city partners set up supports for those in need.

Coun. O’Reilly said after earlier council presentations from David Eby, provincial minister responsible for housing, and Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, he believes the city is “110 per cent on the right track.”

“The presentations that were given today gave me a lot of comfort. And really, again, I get the intent of [the motion]. But I think it will sidetrack our staff from doing what they are doing right now,” O’Reilly said.

Coun. Dieter Dudy said he wanted to commend the three councillors for putting the motion together, but said “the message has already been received.”

“I think that we've got commendable staff, particularly manager Mazzotta is doing an exceptional job in trying to put things together and anticipate what's happening along with the agencies that he's working with,” Dudy said.

“So while I commend you on everything, we're already doing this. We don't need to lay it out on paper.”

Byron McCorkell, the city’s community and protective services director, said the city has worked with community agencies for years to help facilitate and coordinate shelter responses, but the motion suggests the city take on more of a leadership role.

“We're not necessarily equipped to be able to undertake some of the activities that are being suggested here. Others are, and we've tried to work with them to find locations or to coordinate how those responses may happen,” he said.

“I think in the spirit of the motion, we definitely are doing that now. I guess it's really my question back to council. How much further do you want us to go staff-wise? And we can address that, but there's some limitations in our abilities to do that, funding or otherwise.”

Sinclair and Hunter both said they felt the motion directives complimented reports from Eby and Mazzotta on what the city and province were already doing.

“After the summer, Minister [Adrian] Dix said municipal supports and services are part of what needs to be reviewed in addition to a comprehensive review of the provincial supports for these types of events,” Hunter said.

“Today, what I heard Minister Eby indicate was council has a responsibility to set the direction to coordinate and proactively plan. So in my opinion, Minister Eby validated the need for something in this direction, in terms of working with our municipal partners.”

Bass said she just wanted assurance that all relevant partners that can possibly work together on the matter of extreme weather shelters have been in touch with one another.

“We discovered last year, the [Tk'emlups te Secwepemc] band was ready to help us. That was good. Let's ask them again next year. If we have this problem, 'Are you up to helping us? If you are, let's make sure we're ready for it,'” Bass said.

“It just seems that simple to me. I just don't see the complications here at all.”

Ultimately, council voted 5-4 to defeat the motion. Councillors Bass, Sinclair, Hunter and Singh were in favour, while O’Reilly, Bill Sarai, Denis Walsh, Dudy and Mayor Ken Christian were opposed.

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