Cold arctic winds blustered through the streets of Prince Rupert this past winter, leaving those without homes shivering and huddling for warmth. Without a designated shelter in Rupert, homeless men will continue to try and bundle up.
Rain, slush and even heavy snowfall has also burdened the homeless these past few weeks in what is normally a very wet, but snowless coastal city.
But it’s not just the elements that those living on the streets have to deal with. Other challenges may include substance abuse, physical abuse, lack of sanitary conditions, poverty and bad market conditions that make it tough to find work.
The support system is there for women and their children looking for a safe space to go when fleeing abuse due to the North Coast Transition Society (NCTS) and its bevy of programs offered to help with housing, homeless outreach and sexual and domestic violence.
The society even offers small, temporary apartment units. It also helps coordinate public transit for women in need.
But many feel that a purely female focused strategy is not enough in an area that boasts many men suffering from a lack of proper housing and living through impoverished conditions.
Since last year, the NCTS is acting from behind the scenes to get a brand new safe space available for both men and women by the NCTS and partner groups across the community.
It’ll take awhile to achieve, but they’re well on their way.
“We belong to a group of people that are working on trying to eradicate homelessness in the community and we’re coming together in a variety of ways,” said Christine White, executive director at the NCTS.
“We think we can really have an impact on the homeless in Prince Rupert.”
The society has hired a dedicated staff member, James McNish, its housing first project coordinator, to help with just that.
“I’m working to develop a new transitional house that would serve the homeless in Prince Rupert, especially the men in town,” McNish said.
“It’s a long way from becoming a reality but we’ve been working with other community groups to get their consultation on what a new transitional house or shelter would look like … It’s not an inexpensive project, but it’s really vital.”
The program is funded in part by the federal government and the society will seek more funds to continue the project past its current five month existence.
Last Wednesday, the NCTS celebrated International Women’s Day and coincidentally its own 36th anniversary and its fifth at its new multi-level location on Park Avenue.
Staff conducted tours through many different facilities of the building, like the support office, apartment bedrooms, Eagle’s Landing units for women and children, housing outreach and sexual abuse intervention offices, communal kitchen, Robin’s Place for family violence prevention and conference rooms. There is even a play room with a beautiful mural painted and donated generously by Prince Rupert artist Nicole Rudderham, which shows off First Nations culture and symbolic animals in a child-friendly art style.
Looking forward to 2017, White and the staff at the Transition Society will continue their efforts in providing a refuge for women, as well as reviewing options for homeless men.
“It’s frustrating because it does take time,” White said of the endeavour to build a new homeless shelter.
“But I just want people to know that these things are in the works and we’re trying our hardest to make them a reality.”