The temporary extreme weather response homeless shelter at the old Burns Lake Motor Inn building, which had been running since Nov. 1, has ended with renovations beginning on what will eventually be a permanent homeless shelter.
Since the temporary shelter closed at the end of March, Lakes District News has received reports of homeless individuals living in tents and on the streets during the month of April, which has had multiple nights of below zero degrees Celsius.
According to B.C. Housing, the reason for closing down the temporary shelter is because the permit ended on March 31.
“The province, through B.C. Housing, purchased the Burns Lake Motor Inn in April 2020 to provide homes with supports for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in Burns Lake and the surrounding six nations. Initially, the building was used as an emergency weather response (EWR) shelter to address the immediate need for housing during the colder winter months. EWR shelters normally operate from Nov. 1 to March 31. The Burns Lake EWR shelter was always scheduled to close at the end of March but given the persistent colder weather, it remained open for a few extra days into April,” a B.C. Housing spokesperson told Lakes District News.
However, according to Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake, the temporary use permit for the Burns Lake Motor Inn expires on April 30. This end date is consistent with village council records from October 2021 when the temporary use permit was first confirmed by council.
This means homeless individuals could have continued being sheltered from the cold over the past few weeks, had the shelter been opened for the full length of the permit.
Lakes District News asked B.C. Housing why the EWR was closed down a month before the April 30 temporary use permit deadline, but did not receive a response by press time.
Now that the shelter is closed, B.C. Housing is now working with the six nations to repurpose the Burns Lake Motor Inn into permanent supportive housing.
According to B.C. housing, renovations are currently underway on the units at the back of the building, which are expected to be completed fall 2022, with tenancy anticipated shortly afterwards. The repairs to the remaining 22 units at the front of the building are expected to be completed by the end of summer 2023.
As far as an immediate alternative for people currently living on the streets, nothing imminent is in the works.
“The Lake Babine Nation (LBN) was operating the EWR shelter at Burns Lake Motor Inn and is exploring options to support the people affected by the shelter closure until the permanent housing becomes available,” said a B.C. Housing spokesperson.
According to LBN Chief Murphy Abraham, no plans are in place at the moment.
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