Fort St. John’s new homeless shelter officially opened Friday and one user says he’s happy with the improvements.
“It’s good, it looks different,” said Bill Bennett, who also volunteers at the Salvation Army Care and Share Centre, the name of the entire facility. “It’s a lot more roomier.”
“It’s a much better facility,” said Curtis Butler, divisional secretary for the Salvation Army northern regional office. “As the city grows, so does the need.”
The new shelter located at 10116 100 Avenue has 20 beds, doubling the previous capacity, and replacing the temporary one located on the corner of 98 Street and 106 Avenue. If required, more beds can be added.
“We can safely shelter 26 to 30 on the floor,” said Capt. Jim Coggles, of the Salvation Army, about the $1,010,000 building. “For community emergencies … we can use the drop-in facility. We have a very flexible building.”
Each room has a double bunk bed and 16 are earmarked specifically for the homeless. Four beds will be used as transition beds for people going into or coming out of addiction treatment.
Women will have their own space, and one of the rooms is flexible enough to accommodate a single mother for use as a safe home or even a single father with kids. The facility is also wheelchair accessible.
“Some people come in and are completely, utterly poverty stricken, they don’t have a safe home,” Coggles said. “We have the flexibility to work with the Ministry of Human Resources so they can stay a month to three months (to enable them to seek employment).”
The Care and Share facility also provides hot meals, showers and laundry with the thrift store adjacent to it.
The City of Fort St. John picked up the costs incurred at the previous shelter, about $10,000 for eight years, charging the Salvation Army only $1 for rent. That portable Coggles said will probably be moved to the airport to be used as part of the planned fire training centre.
To cover costs, the Salvation Army received grants of $250,000 each from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and BC Housing. About $100,000 was granted by the Peace Regional Withdrawal Management and Emergency Shelter Society with a large portion of that coming from the Oil and Gas Commission. Safeway provided $10,000 in cash and in-kind services was provided by the Way-Loe Consulting. The Salvation Army put up $360,000 for the land.
In attendance at Friday’s grand opening was various city councillors, a representative from CMHC and Peace River North MLA Richard Neufeld.