As the cold weather closes in, so will the opening of new homeless shelter rooms in Burns Lake – half of them, anyway.
In April of 2020 the former Burns Lake Motor Inn was purchased by BC Housing with the intention of converting it into a shelter. It has been a challenging time for any renovation project, but according to the provincial agency we are only a few weeks away from a partial opening.
“Initially, the building was used as an Emergency Weather Response (EWR) shelter to address the immediate need for housing during the colder winter months,” said Shrief Fadl, Senior Communications Specialist for BC Housing.
The project is a partnership that includes the Cheslatta Carrier, Lake Babine, Ts’il Kaz Koh, Wet’suwet’en, Skin Tahi and Nee Tahi Buhn First Nations. The investment total for purchase and renovation was pegged at $9-million.
“BC Housing is now working with the six nations to repurpose the Burns Lake Motor Inn into permanent supportive housing,” said Fadl. “The motel consists of 44 units, split evenly between the front and back of the building. Renovations are currently underway on the units at the back of the building, which are expected to be completed later this fall, with tenancy anticipated shortly afterwards. Repairs to the remaining 22 units at the front of the building are expected to be completed by the end of fall 2023.”
The facility is located at 149 Highway 16 and is following highly successful models in other communities that show greatly improved outcomes for the otherwise vulnerable people who get to reside there. Rather than being merely a roof over their heads, which is benefit enough for many people in danger of homelessness, this will include on-site staff available 24-7 for addressing needs that might arise, plus other direct supports to lift the residents towards better health and self-sufficiency. The building will have common areas like a lounge, dining room, quiet study area, and other features plus on-site access to employment and life-skills training, education options, and health services.
It won’t all be ready right away, said Fadl, but the partners felt it important to get at least the first half of the independent living rooms open to the homeless public.
“The staggered opening of the units allows for the immediate housing needs of the most vulnerable in the community to be addressed, while providing more time to fully renovate and repurpose the motel,” Fadl said.