BC Housing looking to keep Stuart Wood shelter operational through summer, fall

Stuart Wood shelter all year?

BC Housing is looking to extend its lease for a shelter set up in the former Stuart Wood schoolhouse until at least next winter.

The former downtown Kamloops school has housed a 25-bed emergency winter shelter since November, operated by Out of the Cold.

“BC Housing never wants to see anyone lose the shelter they rely on, which is why we are working closely with the City of Kamloops and Out of the Cold society to extend the lease on the shelter at the former Stuart Wood school until next winter,” said BC Housing, in a statement to Castanet Kamloops.

“This means 25 people will continue to be able to access shelter at the site.”

BC Housing said it has been working “closely with the neighbourhood and engaging with stakeholders” about the extension, and has added some updates to the shelter in response to suggestions.

According to BC Housing, consultations are also underway to make sure activities like the summer farmers' market and youth soccer “can continue to serve the community well.”

“We will share more information on these discussions in the coming days,” the statement said.

During a Tuesday council meeting, former councillor Denis Walsh, who lives near Stuart Wood school, said he received a letter in the mail last week from BC Housing advising him about the lease extension.

According to Walsh, the letter stated the shelter lease “will be extended through the summer months to Nov. 1, with potential for [a] longer period.”

Walsh said he was concerned BC Housing did not properly consult neighbours in advance of the change.

He noted a memorandum of understanding signed by BC Housing and the City of Kamloops last year, which said BC Housing would commit to initiating public engagement or notification in advance of future shelter and housing development wherever possible.

“Nobody in my neighbourhood has heard this go on,” Walsh said.

He said the neighbourhood is compassionate and empathetic about Kamloops citizens being in danger during the freezing winter months, and he has no complaints about how the shelter has been managed.

However, Walsh said summer can come with a lot more activity, adding there was recently a fire in the park. He said he was concerned about the farmers market being able to thrive at the same location as the shelter.

“My concern is that we do this work, which is good work, create these policies, and then we don't follow them — it appears we don't follow them,” Walsh said.

“It strictly says here in advance there would be some consultation, some public consultation at least.”

Byron McCorkell, director of community and protective services, said BC Housing advised council they were seeking new locations.

“Now they’re in the process of undertaking the community dialogue around the fact that their intent is to keep the facility open through the summer months,” he said.

Coun. Dale Bass spoke up, saying she hopes McCorkell will remind BC Housing “there’s a difference between communicating and consulting.”

“I share his frustration here,” Bass said, in regards to Walsh.

BC Housing is expected to provide more information on the Stuart Wood shelter lease extension and an update on the Merit Place shelter, which is located inside the former Greyhound depot in Sahali, by the end of the week.

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