Housing with health services for homeless proposed for Prince George

Nearly 70 people attended a City of Prince George open house Wednesday night to hear about a new proposal to build supportive and affordable housing units downtown. 

The project, a partnership between the northern Interior city, B.C. Housing and Northern Health will have two phases: the construction of 50 supportive housing units for people who are homeless, followed by another 50 affordable rental units for people with low to moderate incomes.

"When you move people from the street into their own housing and create a safe stable environment, that is the first step for people to be able to move on with a better quality of life, to be able to access the other supports," said Malachy Tohill with B.C. Housing.

"It should have an impact on the street. That's why we're doing this — to support the homeless and those suffering from mental health and addiction issues."

Andrew Kurjata/CBC

B.C. Housing will provide around the clock staffing, as well as a meal program for residents, he added. 

The project proposed for downtown includes a ground-floor health-care space in each building for both residents and the public to access, which will be overseen by Northern Health and other health service agencies. Some of the services provided will include primary care, harm reduction and specialized mental health and substance-use services

Community input sought

The project is still in its early stages and needs to receive community input and go through a public hearing and a rezoning process. 

City manager Kathleen Soltis says many people who are homeless congregate downtown because that is where a lot of social and health services are located.

Submitted by City of Prince George

"People rightly so are in the downtown and they are accessing services as they should be, but there are also some issues that are causing the businesses a bit of angst," said Soltis. 

"They'll be housed in very nice housing. It won't be shelter type residences. That's where they'll live. That's where they will be fed. That's where they get the health services that they require," she said.

"[The housing is] also going to be a place that they can have friendships, and a place that they can stay rather than needing to congregate in other areas of the downtown."

City council is expected have a public hearing later this fall.

Betsy Trumpener/CBC