Cranes Crossing, the emergency homeless shelter, located at the five corners intersection of Second and Third Ave. reopened its doors to clients on Jan. 11 after being closed due to structural issues in May 2021.
The BC Housing funded facility, purchased in April 2020 and managed by the North Coast Transition Society, will offer 35 warm beds to vulnerable citizens over 19-years old, once it is fully operational.
“The shelter has been through a turbulent time since its inception when it was down on 3rd Ave.,” North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said, adding that the shelter has moved four times in the past two years. “I am happy to see the final product.”
“This is a really important facility to Prince Rupert to get people off the street and off people’s couches. Most importantly is the access to services, whether that’s health services or wrap-around support to find more permanent housing solutions,” the MLA said, on Jan. 15 during a tour of the facility.
Grainne Barthe, program director at North Coast Transition Society, explained that accommodation services are based on a first-come, first-served basis and no drugs are allowed.
Each morning the lineup of people needing accommodation is out the door for the start of 8:30 am daily registration. Those who secure a bed will be provided breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the day, the doors are locked, with clients returning at 4:30 p.m. for the nighttime stay. Personal items are stored in tote bins at the end of the bunk bed rows. New shower and washroom facilities aid in personal hygiene and onsite laundry facilities ensure clean clothing.
One kitchen and a coffee nook corner help food distribution with meals being cooked at the Crows Nest Lodge and taken to the shelter daily.
“Right now we have 28 beds, but once we’re done it should hold up to 35,” Barthe said.
Barthe explained the need for a homeless shelter in the city has exponentially increased since October/November 2017, when a tent city sprung up on the city hall lawn.
“I remember being shocked myself. It seemed like the homeless crisis came out of nowhere, and “boom” Prince Rupert had a homeless problem or people without housing,” Barthe said.
“I think it was a real visual for the community on the magnitude of the homeless situation that we have in Prince Rupert,” Rice said. “It’s been hidden. Many people couch surfed. Because we live in such a wet climate, we don’t necessarily see the visuals of people on the street as we would in other communities, but it’s always been really prevalent. I think it’s been exacerbating in the past few years.”
Barthe said that Prince Rupert’s first shelter on Third Ave was originally supposed to be a temporary fix to the issues.
“I don’t think anyone in Prince Rupert envisioned that the homelessness would become such a critical problem,” Barthe said.
Crows Nest Lodge opened in April 2019 with the thought the 36 newly constructed units would take care of the issue of people not having homes.
“But, we found that people kept coming,” she added.”Here we are now, hoping there will be a light at the end of the tunnel when Phase 2 starts.”
Phase 2 in the locations has already started construction and will consist of another 46 units similar to the supportive housing at Crows Nest Lodge. It will be staffed 24/7 to provide safety and support to residents.
Given the services of North Coast Transition Society started as a women’s organization traditionally servicing those in need of safety from violence, branching out into general housing has been a new challenge to learn, Barthe said.
“We ventured into homelessness, and that problem came up with the shelter. It’s new. Supportive housing is something that’s new in the province. We’re handed supportive housing projects, but no one really had a policy manual, so we were just learning as we go.”
“It was really challenging, but exciting too, to see that support makes a difference. Having a roof over your head makes a huge difference.”
For the future, Barthe said her hopes are for everyone to be housed and have a safe space to be who they are. We are all different, she said.
“I think a lot of us who are privileged in society have to let go of the concept of how everyone should live and just try to accept people where they are at, but still afford them to have a roof over their head and the opportunity to be safe.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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