Housing motion prompts long debate
By Lyonel Doherty
Establishing supportive housing in Oliver won’t happen anytime soon.
A motion by Coun. Aimee Grice prompted a long debate on Monday when she recommended that council engage with the province to initiate the building of supportive housing in the community.
She noted that a housing assessment identified 35 to 40 residents of the town currently experiencing homelessness.
Coun. Larry Schwarzenberger said he definitely is in favour of supportive housing but noted that a cold weather shelter is already on the town’s priority list. He stated his desire to get more information on what supports (for mental health and addictions) are available locally before moving ahead with supportive housing.
Coun. Dave Mattes said he didn’t want council to commit any land to the project until they know what is available.
“I don’t know anyone who is against supportive housing or affordable housing; you can’t be. But I am concerned about putting more on staff’s plate.”
But Grice was persistent in her belief that council should forge ahead with the proposal.
She noted the cold weather shelter is a 2021 project assisting people from November to March.
Grice said council can direct staff to investigate (with the province) to find out what grants are available for supportive housing.
Coun. Petra Veintimilla said she isn’t sure if the town has have enough resources to support this project.
Chief Administrative Officer Cathy Cowan said they do not have a piece of land immediately identified for it.
Mattes expressed his concern that the motion was asking council to be the driving force behind it.
Grice said they are merely seeing what funding is available.
But Schwarzenberger said he was a “little leery” about lumping supportive housing with a cold weather shelter.
“I don’t think they necessarily do the same thing.”
He said because the shelter is already on council’s priority list, it should focus on that first.
Cowan explained that BC Housing can provide support for a shelter for a four-month period, 24 hours a day. This would include a bed, a hot meal, laundry and shower facilities.
Grice said it might make more sense to provide the shelter permanently.
Mattes questioned whether providing shelter for people is the town’s role, but he made it clear that he personally supports the initiative.
Mayor Martin Johansen said it would take some time to get these projects off the ground due to the upcoming election and the government treasury “shutting down.”
In the end, Grice withdrew her motion and council agreed to engage with Desert Sun Counselling and Resource Centre to determine what resources are available for supportive housing.