A bed set up in the Public Safety Building

Kitimat prepares to open emergency cold weather shelter

As a 'housing crunch' continues to choke the community, the town is preparing to open a cold weather shelter.

Donations are welcome for Kitimat’s Emergency Cold Weather Shelter which is planned to go into operation soon, but the District of Kitimat doesn’t know quite yet what they’ll need.

Boxes recently arrived at the Public Safety Building on Haisla Boulevard — where the fire hall is — and contained in those packages from BC Housing were temporary beds, blankets and pillows.

The idea is to provide a place for people without a home to go when weather dips into the sub-zero range, and after a technical issue with a prior plan to use an ATCO trailer, the former council chambers came up as a suitable alternative.

If people have questions about making donations they can contact the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer at the District of Kitimat at 250-632-8915, or e-mail  wwaycheshen@kitimat.ca.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan had sought for an ATCO trailer to be set up in the downtown area near the Northwest Community College however the unit they secured turned out not to meet building codes for Kitimat’s snow loads.

Meanwhile the shelter at the Public Safety Building isn’t officially quite ready to be opened but Monaghan said she wouldn’t allow anyone to be without shelter with this week’s cold winds.

“I would absolutely not allow anyone in my community to sleep out in cold weather with the wind chill the way it is now,” she said.

Pets will also be taken care of and Monaghan said she has the assurances from the humane society’s manager that dogs with people using the shelter will get flea baths and flea collars.

The old council chambers is considered for the main room to house people for the nights, but the Public Safety Building does have old police cells from when it was also the town’s police station and those rooms can be retrofitted to house people as well.

The Deputy Fire Chief Peter Bizarro said that he’s happy to have the space used for the emergency shelter, living up to the facility’s name as a “public safety” building.

He doesn’t expect the demand for the shelter to be very high this winter, however, as he said through the fire department’s work they haven’t seen many people on the streets without a place to go.

Monaghan said that there were indications over the summer that there would be a demand for this facility.

“There was a huge demand apparently in the summer when they [Kitimat Housing Committee] did the study,” she said.

If people are in need of a nightly cold weather shelter, or if you see a person who would need it, they are encouraged to call the RCMP (250-632-7111) or the fire department (250-632-8940) to let them know.

BC Housing provided $15,000 for the cold weather project, money which is being overseen by the District of Kitimat.

Meanwhile the Housing Committee is seeking council’s support to finalize the Kitimat Cold Weather Response Plan. The plan was submitted to councillors at their December 2 meeting, and council moved to receive the report and to have staff move quickly to recommend the next steps to have it in place.

The plan includes the procedure for activating and de-activating the plan, and by extension the shelter.

The plan also includes a job description for a shelter worker which would work in the shelter while activated, and would support the Kitimat Housing Resource Worker when the shelter is not in use.

Meanwhile Monaghan said that she’s expecting as-yet un-named proposals for affordable housing projects in Kitimat to get established sometime next spring.

Such projects would have to go through the town’s zoning procedures, she noted.

Affordable housing continues to become more crucial to the community, as there are reports that people who live in the apartments on Kuldo Boulevard are being evicted due to renovations.

The Sentinel called the number associated with the local site office for Kiticorp, a property management company which owns the apartments on Kuldo Boulevard, however the person who picked up the phone wouldn’t comment on the situation regarding evictions.

The Sentinel has been told by other sources that residents have until the end of January to move out.