The snow and subzero temperatures have not gone unnoticed by anyone, but when you have no secure access to a home, these circumstances become critical. Harm can occur to anyone living in makeshift conditions long before the mercury dips below zero, which is why a consortium of local interests led by the six First Nations and the Village of Burns Lake has acted to establish a shelter at the site of the former Burns Lake Motor Inn.
The project is in conjunction with BC Housing. An opening date has not been established, other than the knowledge that it is needed as soon as possible.
“We are behind schedule, owing to things that are out of our hands, including Telus,” said village councillor Kristy Bjarnason during her report at the Nov. 15 public meeting of mayor and council. “We are working hard and trying to get staff in there so that we can get people in as soon as possible. It’s still moving along as fast as they can. We’re really looking forward to that opening.”
A spokesperson for BC Housing told the Lakes District News that work on the first phase of renovations was incomplete but earnestly underway.
“Given the cool temperatures and the urgent need to offer safe and supported indoor homes for people experiencing homelessness, half of the Burns Lake Motor Inn’s 44 permanent supportive homes will be occupied shortly, pending an occupancy permit from the Village of Burns Lake,” the spokesperson said. “(When operational) staff will be on site 24/7 to provide support services to residents, such as daily meals, mentorship and skills training, assistance to medical appointments and access to other health supports as needed.”
The intention is to move people into the back half of the facility in the short-term, Phase One, but continue renovations to complete all the units and fill up the remainder in Phase Two.
“The site is undergoing upgrades including new flooring, kitchens, heat and air conditioning,” said the BC Housing contact. “We have also completed major repairs, including upgrading the water main system and installing a sprinkler system, in each of the 44 units. Renovations on the unoccupied suites are anticipated to complete in fall 2023.”
According to BC Housing, residents are being selected “through a Coordinated Access Table, which consists of representatives from the six nations, Lake Babine, Cheslatta, Ts’il Kaz Koh, Wet’suwet’en, Skin Tyee, Nee Tahi Buhn, Northern Health and BC Housing.”
It is the only new project involving BC Housing to address Burns Lake home insecurity. The spokesperson said “at this time, there are no other properties in Burns Lake under consideration for purchase by BC Housing.”