Boundary Family Services Society (BFSS) officially assumed operational responsibility for an emergency cold weather shelter in Grand Forks on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
While a shelter at 7500 Donaldson Dr. has been run for a week by volunteers, BFSS will now run the facility as a 10-bed shelter, funded by BC Housing and operated under a set of rules approved by the non-profit’s board and Grand Forks city council last week.
In a Jan. 15 vote, councillors unanimously agreed to “suspend bylaw enforcement action until April 1, 2020” at the shelter location, which otherwise would not permit overnight use for more than one person. “However,” the motion read, “should the operation of the Extreme Cold Weather Shelter create unresolvable community safety concerns prior to then, Council will re-evaluate whether bylaw enforcement action is appropriate.”
BFSS executive director Darren Pratt told council that the shelter will boast 10 beds, and be open 24 hours per day. Pratt said that people on-site must register with staff and sign in between 6 and 8 p.m. If people choose to leave after 10 p.m., they will not be allowed back in for the night, Pratt said.
Asked about security at the building by Coun. Rod Zielinski, Pratt replied, “lights, cameras – no action.”
Under the rules approved by BFSS, anyone on the property must be accounted for by staff.
“If they are not a staff member, registered volunteer or a registered guest, they have no business being on that property, period,” Pratt said. The measure is meant to assuage concerns raised by neighbours about other people hanging around the building. Under the BFSS rules, Pratt said, anyone else would technically be trespassing.
The shelter, as operated by BFSS, was also unanimously endorsed by the Grand Forks Social Services Advisory Group last week, including an approving vote from the Citizens for a Better Grand Forks members, who were concerned about the enforcement of rules at the shelter and the impact on neighbours around the facility.
Earlier this month, Pratt confirmed to city council that BFSS would not operate a shelter in Grand Forks beyond March 31, 2020.
For any feedback on the operation of the shelter – complaint or compliment – the public is asked to first direct their messages to the shelter manager, and then to Pratt at BFSS, before going to the city’s line at email@example.com. Pratt said this was the best way to get problems fixed in a timely fashion, rather than having city staff relay complaints back to the shelter.
“We’ve written [the motion] in such a way that if something goes wrong, we’ll be pounding on the door,” Zielinski said before voting to approve the shelter. “At least, we’ll have discussion at this table and I’ll be pounding on the desk that those rules weren’t followed.”
“I have every confidence that it will be well run and that the community will benefit from this,” Coun. Christine Thompson added.
Pratt said that a community meeting with neighbours will be scheduled to hear their concerns and input into the shelter’s operations.