Service providers discuss potential for homeless problem in Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert doesn't have a significant homeless problem - but a homeless problem may not be far off.

According to two service providers in the community, Prince Rupert doesn’t have a significant homeless problem – but a homeless problem may not be far off.

“People who are actually homeless and living on the street are probably small in number, but the number of people potentially homeless within a short period of time is probably several. These are people who are 30 days away from being homeless if something happens to disrupt their income level,” said Capt. Gary Sheils of the Salvation Army.

“Homelessness is becoming more of an issue. I’ve been in this program for four and a half years now and it wasn’t as big of a problem when I started…It’s getting worse, and that’s just because poverty is the root of all homelessness. With Income Assistance and what they give out, it’s not enough to house a person,” said Judy Garbutt, Housing Outreach Worker with the North Coast Transition Society.

Currently those on income assistance receive about $610 per month, of which $375 is designed to cover housing costs. But rent in Prince Rupert has increased. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in June the average rent in Prince Rupert was $624 while the average rent for townhouses was $627. That cost is without taking anything else into consideration.

“People get roommates to share rent. Hydro costs have become a huge problem. We’ve had a lot of people who have been cut off by BC Hydro and a lot of people are looking to be placed into somewhere that Hydro is included…There is nowhere in town where $375 will pay that. Nowhere,” said Garbutt, with Sheils noting the problem only gets worse as the temperature drops.

“There are lots and lots of people who are going month-to-month, paycheque-to-paycheque. And in this climate, doing that is even more of a possibility…The cost of everything goes up, but their income doesn’t,” he said.

Another cause of concern is the availability of quality affordable housing and the options for it.

“All the landlords I deal with don’t have the vacancies that they use to have,” said Garbutt.

Along with issues related to housing costs is a lack of training for those who may need it about the responsibilities associated with housing. Garbutt says there was once a life skills program available for those in need in Prince Rupert, but the funding was cut.

“People get a cheque and spend it all instead of paying the bills,” said Garbutt of some of the problems people who took the course experienced.

“The people who went through this program that were housed are still being housed. It was a very successful program.”

The Prince Rupert Salvation Army currently has a 10-bed shelter housed at Raffles Inn, and does look at extra rooms when the need arises, while the North Coast Transition Society helps women and children in need and escaping abusive relationships and is operating near capacity.

“We need a shelter. We definitely need a shelter,” said Garbutt, noting that more funding to address the problem is needed as well.

“A lot of this is because all of the funding has been cut.”

And while much has been said about employment opportunities in the community now and in the future, Sheils points to the level of assistance provided by the local Salvation Army as proof of the high level of need in the Prince Rupert.

“Our shelter usage is about the same as last year. We’re going to serve just under 48,000 meals this year, we served just over 48,000 last year and food bank usage is about the same as last year…There is still way too much need for a town of just over 10,000 people. For us to serve 48,000 meals is a horrendous figure. We’re looking at doing 850 Christmas hampers for families this year and that is about 25 per cent of our town,” he said.

“Nationally, one in 20 people receive help from the Salvation Army and here in Prince Rupert it is about one in four people. It’s horrendous.”

Just Posted

VIDEO: Homeless shelter opens with 25 beds

Tent city occupant said they made their point, plans to use the new Prince Rupert emergency shelter

Gitga’at make a permanent space for members in Prince Rupert

The coastal B.C. nation purchased a building on Third Avenue West to support its members

Hammy has been freed of his threads, a purple antler remains

The iconic Prince Rupert buck with a piece of hammock attached to his antlers was caught by COs

VIDEO: Relearning Nisga’a

Project Prince Rupert Nisga’a Language Initiative is ending its first course with plans to continue

Top Comments on crosswalks and the emergency shelter

A handful of comments from our online readers

This Week Podcast – Episode 60

Prince Rupert’s podcast learns more about the new playground at Mariners Park and more headlines

CONTEST: Send us your Hammy photos to win a free T-shirt

Submit your best Hammy the deer photo by Nov. 30 to be entered to win

An adopted cat is the best 10 pounds you’ll gain this season

BC SPCA encouraging families to add a forever feline friend during adoption event Nov. 24 to Dec. 3

Uber official says public needs to push for ridesharing in B.C.

Mike van Hemmen tells Kelowna Chamber of commerce ridesharing would be ‘win-win-win’

B.C. co-ops relieved with Ottawa’s housing strategy

Federal government to have a new co-operative housing funding model in place by 2020

B.C. NDP referendum plan sparks legislature battle

David Eby says public will decide on proportional referendum

Court adjourned again for man linked to Shuswap farm where human remains found

Curtis Sagmoen will appear back in court on Dec. 14

B.C. family advocating for drug decriminalization following death of son

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has noted the New Democrats would decriminalize personal possession of all drugs

Most Read