Those advocating for Prince Rupert’s increasing homeless population feel optimistic that solutions are coming.
Not only have the individuals who shared their plight with homelessness after the closure of the Neptune Motor Inn been housed for an additional month, groundwork is being laid for a project aiming to better serve homeless or nearing homeless individuals in Prince Rupert.
While Prince Rupert Aboriginal Community Services Society (PRACSS) executive director Theresa Wesley said there are no quick fixes, solutions are on the horizon.
Recently, representatives from PRACSS, the City of Prince Rupert, Hecate Strait Employment Development Society, BC Housing and Ma’kola Housing met to begin the first stage of a Community Service Alignment Pilot project in Prince Rupert.
Prince Rupert was one of three communities selected for the provincial government and Federation of Community Social Services of B.C.-initiative, carried out under the Innovation and Sustainability Action Plan.
For the pilots, community social service agencies must work together to identify opportunities for structural change, allowing resources to be redirected. The objectives of the projects are to create efficiencies, enhance organizational capacity, increase the availability and quality of services for clients, resulting in better outcomes for people utilizing services.
At the meeting on June 8, the parties identified a lack of centralized services for the homeless or nearing homeless as a gap in Prince Rupert. The next step of the planning phase of the project will be to expand and include more community groups in the discussion.
“Everyone who left that first session was feeling a lot better. We went away with an action plan that day,” said Wesley.
“I feel really optimistic that something positive will come of this. Not ‘may’, but ‘will’ come out of it.”
Wesley said she’s pleased to have community organizations working together for a common goal.
“When you get people with a common agenda and vision, I think a lot can happen from that energy,” she said.
All of the community groups involved with the pilot are volunteering their time, with Sonia Vickers from Hecate Strait stepping up as project manager.
The planning stage of the pilot project will wrap up in September, with agencies and funders then committing to the implementation of a structural change option.
Last week, Coun. Joy Thorkelson gave an update on the outcome of the people left homeless when the Neptune shut down, stating BC Housing provided funding to house them at the Moby Dick Inn while they continue to look for permanent residency.
“They were housed for the month and what happens at the end of the month, we don’t know,” explained Wesley.
“There’s no solution yet. It’s a temporary fix.”
Donna Cairns from BC Housing said by working with the North Coast Transition Society, the agency was able to provide subsidized housing or rent supplements to 15 of the former Neptune Motor Inn tenants.
Furthermore, Thorkelson said BC Housing has expressed interest in purchasing an already-existing housing stock in Prince Rupert so it can provide additional units.
Cairns told the Northern View that representatives met with Prince Rupert city council to seek viable proposals to develop affordable housing in the community, but said the agency hasn’t received any proposals as of yet.