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Funding in place but search for shelter site for those without homes so far fruitless

BC Housing continues to work with partners in community to find appropriate site
Snow falls on tents in Salmon Arm but no appropriate site for a shelter for people without homes has been found yet. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Snow has arrived in Salmon Arm, but an emergency shelter hasn’t.

Several organizations have been searching for a location for a permanent or temporary shelter but, so far, nothing has been found.

“We know that a permanent shelter is needed for people experiencing homelessness in Salmon Arm, which is why BC Housing is working with CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) Shuswap Revelstoke, the municipality and community partners to find a location for a permanent or temporary shelter,” reads a Nov. 4 email to the Observer from BC Housing.

BC Housing explained the operator of the Lighthouse shelter (the Salvation Army), “informed BC Housing in the spring that they could no longer sustain operations after May 31, 2022, due to staffing challenges. As a result, the shelter closed. Despite having funding available and conducting regular searches in the community for adequate locations, we have not yet been able to secure a location to replace this shelter,” said BC Housing.

In July of 2022, BC Housing announced CMHA Shuswap Revelstoke had been selected as the new shelter operator.

BC Housing added it is grateful for the support of the non-profit sector which has been delivering services for people in need during a time of intense pressure.

“Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to stay, which is why we are searching for a site that can be operational year-round to avoid further shelter relocations. We will update the community as soon as a location is identified. At this point in time, there are no additional winter or Emergency Weather Response shelters set to open, either. This is a very difficult situation and the last thing we want is for people to be without a safe indoor space,” reads the email.

Read more: Lighthouse Shelter in Salmon Arm to close its doors permanently May 31

Read more: VIDEO: Third building in Salmon Arm’s affordable housing project opens doors

In November 2021, BC Housing, in partnership with CMHA and the City of Salmon Arm, opened Cedar Place. Cedar Place contains 38 studio units of supportive housing for people without homes or at risk of becoming homeless. Cedar Place was the third of three buildings opened by BC Housing and CMHA on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Third Street SW.

The first building, Larch Place, which opened in February 2021, contains 32 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units catering to seniors, families and people with disabilities with low to moderate incomes. The second building, Birch Place, which has 35 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom rental units, opened in June of 2021.

“We are also working with the Province and partners on comprehensive solutions to address root causes of homelessness and its many challenges. BC Housing and the Province recognize that shelters are not a long-term solution to homelessness…” BC Housing stated, referring to the 38 units opened.

The Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Emergency Shelter opened its doors in November 2010. Since then, the building has provided overnight shelter during the winter months except during Covid, when the shelter was moved to the former McGuire Lake Congregate Living building to help prohibit spread of the virus.

In a May 2022 interview, the Salvation Army’s Lieut. Joel Torrens said that through the pandemic it became clear the need for sheltering exceeded what the Lighthouse could offer.

“What’s needed is a place people can come and have a little more space of their own, not have to leave in the morning and check in at night. They need a 24-hour space,” he said.

Back in January 2007, the rezoning application for the Salvation Army shelter was approved by Salmon Arm council in a narrow vote, at which time Salvation Army officials had expressed hope the shelter would be open by the summer of 2007. The Salvation Army eventually received the keys to the former armoury from the federal government in the spring of 2008.

The Lighthouse shelter opened its doors in the fall of 2010. Costs such as redoing the whole heating system as well as removing asbestos from the floor tiles delayed construction, with the price tag rising to more than $600,000, said the Salvation Army captain of the time. He said community generosity helped address unexpected costs.

Prior to the opening of the Lighthouse shelter in 2010, local churches had been providing six volunteers per night, seven nights per week, to staff the Inn From the Cold initiative, which offered air mattresses and bedding at one or two of the local churches.
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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