The consultants helping Salmon Arm develop a housing strategy made sure they consulted some often overlooked experts – those people who are homeless in the community.
During a public open house at city hall on Dec. 5, Jen Casorso with Urban Matters said the consultants met earlier in the day with people who stayed at the Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Emergency Shelter.
Seven people – six men, one woman – who are homeless and two Salvation Army staff sat down to share their knowledge with the consultants. They were paid, she says, just as experts from an agency sitting around a boardroom table would have been.
“Most folks acknowledged they don’t want something big. They’re looking for a bachelor suite that’s affordable, that likely meets shelter allowance rates which are $375 a month, that is within town so they can access all the other services and improve their own health and well being,” Casorso said.
A couple of people described how hard it is to find rentals, because often the rent is two, three and sometimes four times their shelter allowance rate.
“That doesn’t make it reasonable, and room-mating is not something that’s that easy to do,” Casorso remarked.
If they do find a place, often they have to pay the first and last month’s rent and a damage deposit – something that can be impossible for a person with a lower income.
Casorso said they appreciate what the Salvation Army provides, but they really want 24-hour shelter.
A dilemma for people who are homeless is the lack of options during they day. They must wander around. They might sit at a Tim Hortons or the A & W, but they’d prefer to stay in one spot.
Some of the homeless people interviewed pointed out that some job openings are late at night or graveyard shift.
“So what do you do during the day?” Casorso asks. “You can’t access shelter or have housing to get to sleep so you can’t take a job opportunity to get some money and then get your own place. It’s a vicious cycle.”
While the consultants have created a flyer that lists “emerging recommendations” for Salmon Arm’s housing strategy, they still have work to do. Casorso says they will be looking at all the input gathered and create an action plan for the city. The final report will be presented to city council in February.
Along with meeting with people who are homeless and holding the open house, the consultants have interviewed a group of seniors and members of the city’s housing task force as well as conducting a survey and encouraging online input.
Although their input-gathering stage is wrapping up, city staff report that recommendations and ideas from the public are still welcome by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.