A local safety advocates group was not happy with the proposed site of a Trail homeless shelter.
The Concerned Trail Citizens (CTC) group is relieved to hear that Career Development Services (CDS) and BC Housing had pulled its rezoning application with the city to create a homeless shelter in a vacant building across from the Charles Bailey Theatre.
CDS manager Sheila Adcock told the Trail Times that they wanted to ensure they could secure funding before going through with the application for rezoning.
“There was a concern with the process of having a community consultation about a possible location before there was confirmed funding to operate a year round shelter,” said Adcock.
In response, CTC advocates met with the Times on Dec. 2 to voice their opposition, not necessarily to the creation of a homeless shelter, but more so to the proposed location.
“We continue to be very concerned in regards to the safety, theft and overall quality of life in Greater Trail,” said advocate John D’Arcangelo. “In particular downtown Trail.
“We’re involved in the recent situation where the shelter was looking at buying the property at 1506 Cedar Ave., and we were very concerned about that and pleased to see it’s not going there, at least at the moment, because that is definitely not the place for it.”
While the group agrees that there is a dire need for a homeless facility with 24/7 care, the CTC doesn’t believe the building across from the Trail Community and Arts Building, which houses Selkirk College, Trail Gymnastics Club, the VISAC Gallery, and Charles Bailey Theatre, is the right location.
“It’s a prominent area in town, right in the heart of your theatre and commercial banks there, so we were pleased to see that did not happen.”
CTC is particularly alarmed with the number of homeless and open drug use in the downtown core, in spite of efforts to increase RCMP and security patrols.
Seniors advocate Margaret Crawford says that several times she has encountered adults in the process of using drugs in enclosed bank machine areas.
Crawford told the Times that a simple shelter won’t help the homeless, rather, Trail desperately needs a proper facility where round-the-clock mental-health support is given.
“We need more mental health workers and we need them to be present, when they need them most, which is probably after hours, but they need them all the time, 24-7.”
D’Arcangelo concurs adding that it is also adversely affecting downtown businesses and the families that normally frequent them.
“They are on the streets right now, and there’s been a negative effect on businesses, and a lot of people I know, not just seniors,” said D’Arcangelo. “They will not go downtown alone, they are afraid to go downtown alone and younger families say there is no way they will send their kids downtown alone.”
CTC says it would be in the best interests of the City of Trail and Career Development Services to locate the shelter outside of the downtown core.
When asked which neighbourhood the shelter should be relocated to? CTC offered an alternative.
Terry Brennen, a Psychotherapist with a specialty in addiction, suggested the shelter be moved to a more rural location, like the area between Fruitvale and Salmo. He said it was critical that the ‘four pillars of drug addiction’ – harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement – be implemented.
“You have to have the four pillars working, and you have to have the resources to run the property, and have the properly trained people.”
CTC advocate and businessman Gord Fischer suggests the problem can and should be addressed immediately by the province and respective municipalities.
“Every community in B.C. has this, so clearly it is a provincial or even federal problem,” said Fischer. “To have 150 communities fighting the same problem with no real meat or potatoes from the governing bodies is a real slap in the face to the tax payers, to everybody.
“In its simplest form we are enabling bad behaviour … I’m not saying incarceration is the solution, but there are solutions out there that need deep thought, deep study and lots of money, and downtown anywhere is not the solution.”