EDITORIAL: Many hands will make Coquitlam homeless shelter work
Source: Tri-City News, December 20, 2011
The selection of an operator for a shelter and transition housing in Coquitlam is an important milestone for the long-awaited facility at 3030 Gordon Ave.
By choosing RainCity Housing and Support Society, the province, through BC Housing, has advanced a project that has long been on the radar of Tri-City citizen groups. Although homeless numbers are down significantly from a few years ago, the new shelter and transition housing will ensure no one has to live outdoors, no matter what issues they are struggling with.
This show of goodwill and support by the province has yet to be followed up with funding but that will likely follow once a plan is in place.
It has been a long journey since homeless advocates held meetings in city council chambers to talk about what should be done to help the more than 200 identified homeless people and now is not the time for second-guessing the choice of operator, even though some reputable agencies with local knowledge were passed up in favour of RainCity.
There is still a place for the Salvation Army and the Hope for Freedom Society to continue to provide important, although different, services for struggling individuals in the community. The Salvation Army was one of the first service providers to local homeless and Hope for Freedom deserves much of the credit for reducing the homeless population from about 219 individuals to 48 with its caring approach and ability to link people with drug and alcohol issues to help they need.
We will likely never know why RainCity was chosen over other providers to run the Coquitlam shelter but there is no question the organization has much experience in running similar shelters and transition housing at 11 developments in Vancouver over the last 30 years. The group has established credentials and has promised to work in partnership with nearby property owners, as well as the city, the Tri-City Homelessness Task Group and other service providers.
These partnerships will be crucial for the Gordon Avenue shelter to get past the drawing board. By the same token, the local community must also do its part to work with RainCity to ensure the new facility is a model neighbour and successful service provider to local homeless people.