The Way Out Shelter has now moved into the former Flamingo Hotel, but that is not the only service that Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS) plans to offer at the site.
In addition to a homeless shelter, CDCSS plans to offer low-cost housing and harm-reduction services.
The shelter will continue to offer 10 beds as well as showers, hygiene products, counselling, laundry and meals for people whether they are staying at the shelter or not. It was originally intended as a temporary winter shelter, but a funding extension was granted to keep the facility open through at least June.
Shelter director Ray Griffiths says the shelter prioritizes local people first. But if there is vacant space the shelter reaches out to its counterparts in Trail and Nelson to fill those beds.
“It is a reciprocal agreement all the way around that has worked very well for us,” Griffiths told city council at a March 1 meeting.
At the council meeting CDCSS answered a number of questions from council and the public about its operational plans and procedures:
• The shelter is staffed 24 hours a day with two awake staff members.
• Clients are made aware of all policies during their intake interview.
• Clients are assigned a case worker.
• No drugs or alcohol are allowed in the building or on the property.
• No tents or trailers will be allowed on the property.
• 12-16 security cameras will be installed.
• If a client leaves the shelter after the doors close for the night, they are not allowed to return.
• Inappropriate shelter behaviour is addressed by an escalating reduction of services up to the point the client will not be allowed back.
• The exterior of the site will be checked on several times a day for cleanliness.
• The City of Castlegar does not own or operate the shelter.
The shelter is located in the portion of the hotel that was the previous owner’s living quarters. The former hotel rooms will be used for low-cost housing.
The low-cost housing will consist of five units suitable for occupancy by singles or couples. Priority will be given to those leaving homelessness.
The organization’s Drug Overdose Prevention Education (DOPE) team will also be operating out of the site. This service includes harm-reduction supplies, education and drug testing five days a week.
Other services will include helping people replace lost identification, transportation to medical appointments, help accessing mental health services, outreach nursing and AA meetings. A new program to help people with rental issues and community gardening will also be added to the site.
With the shelter relocation, the upstairs floor of the CDCSS building downtown will revert back to Chrissy’s Place Women’s Centre and space for youth once COVID-19 restrictions allow.
At the council meeting CDCSS director Kristein Johnson acknowledged that there were some things that could have been done better when opening the downtown shelter location including better communication with neighbours and businesses.
Johnson said another thing the society learned since opening the shelter downtown is that the site was not really an appropriate spot for a shelter.
But when questioned about an increase in crime and two recent violent incidents in the shelter’s vicinity, Griffiths did not see it as a big problem.
“There have been two events in four months that possibly could be connected to us, but I personally don’t find that to be huge,” he said.
Griffiths said he does not expect to see an increase in crime in the neighbourhood of the new location as a result of the shelter.
The B.C. Coroners Service has recently confirmed that it is investigating a death at the shelter on Jan. 11. A full report is not expected for several months.
CDCSS has declined to comment on any specific incidents or individuals, citing privacy concerns.
Questions about the shelter can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Immediate concerns can be phoned in to 250-608-5019.