Temporary housing will soon be in place on Royal Avenue ahead of the opening of more permanent supportive housing on the North Shore and downtown.
A new housing project will open at 185 Royal Ave. and will contain 30 short-term beds and on-site services. Each resident will have a designated bed and access to showers, meals and outreach services, such as life skills training, employment assistance and community services referrals.
The project just off Tranquille Road on the North Shore, is expected to open on Nov. 1 following renovations now underway by BC Housing, the building’s new leaseholder.
The temporary housing project is being called an “interim measure” by the province and is expected to remain open until the spring, when its residents will be relocated to modular housing projects at 317 Tranquille Rd., about one block away, and 259 West Victoria St. downtown.
In August, the province announced it would construct 55 units of similar temporary housing on city-owned land at several Mission Flats Road addresses. The opening of those units is expected to coincide with the availability of 13 additional beds at the Emerald Centre homeless shelter downtown beginning in November.
Privately run social agency JUMP Kamloops currently offers 15 meals a week to homeless and non-homeless alike at 185 Royal Ave. and is working with the city to determine its next steps.
“We’re still in negotiations and planning with the City of Kamloops and some other potential partners,” JUMP co-ordinator Glenn Hilke told KTW.
“Our goal is to make sure that the people who were accessing the community kitchen still have a place to go.”
According to Hilke, JUMP’s departure from the building is part of the reason for the new development.
“For this new project, we just handed the key over. So, $100,000 worth of equipment, renovations, materials — whatever they want to keep, they are welcome to keep,” Hilke said.
“We didn’t ask for any financial compensation for that. We were also instrumental in the first step, convincing our landlord that this would be a good thing, even though it would mean a transition for us.”
Although the new project means JUMP will need to find a new home, Hilke said he has long known the need for this kind of space on the North Shore.
“We needed something on the North Shore. I know they are amalgamated, but it’s like there are two different cities. And it’s two different cultures, as well,” he said.
While Hilke saw the need for the space, some in the neighbourhood are much more reluctant to make way.
Ryan Borowsky, general manager of the adjacent Totem City Motors, said cleanup at the property has already begun and he has seen items being moved off-site.
Borowsky said he has experienced numerous problems with drug users in the area. He said that while he welcomes the new shelter, he added he would prefer a “normal” neighbour and questioned the zoning of the block, with the funeral home located on the other side of the shelter property.
“Right out of our front doorsteps we’ve got East Hastings and Main. That’s what I call it. The front corner of my car lot, before you come, you’re going to see all the transients before you come into my business,” he said.
One of the reasons Borowsky said he reluctantly welcomes the change is because he was told the shelter would be managed by paid staff rather than volunteers, feature 24/7 security and have people screened for drugs prior to entry.
Borowsky said he was told the shelter would operate until March, but is concerned it may continue to operate further into 2019.
“Are they going to stay here after the development and they’ve put all kinds of money into this building?” he asked. “I don’t know.”
North Shore Business Improvement Association executive director Jeremy Heighton said the Tranquille business corridor has been “in a state of concern” for some time, but maintained the change coming to 185 Royal Ave. will be an improvement because it won’t feature drop-in services.
“Right now, the JUMP centre is a meal drop-in program, so it’s completely open. The new site is closed. It’s not a drop-in centre. There are no drop-in services there. So, in fact, it will reduce the number of transient people through the neighbourhood and stabilize who is there,” Heighton said.
The 2018 national point-in-time homeless count found 201 people experiencing homelessness in Kamloops.