The mayor of Sechelt, B.C., says he has been unable to get a satisfactory response from senior staff at B.C. Housing about plans to repair the Sunshine Coast's only permanent shelter after it was shuttered months ago by a fire.
More than 30 residents were displaced after the Feb. 7, 2023 fire when extensive water damage forced the shelter to close.
Mayor John Henderson says he is concerned about his "extremely limited communication" with B.C. Housing regarding any sharing of information on the timeline for repairs or a re-opening date for the shelter.
"We've gone from 36 beds to zero," Henderson said.
"I've talked to the minister, I've sent letters to B.C. Housing and we haven't had any response from senior management."
A month ago, Henderson says the district requested permission to put portable toilets on the shelter's property "just to give the unhoused some dignity."
"The response we received from B.C. Housing was essentially — it's not in accordance with our policy and we can't make a decision until the end of the year," he said.
Temporary shelter set up
In March, a temporary shelter was set up in an annex building at St. Hilda's Anglican Church in Sechelt, but residents and former residents say conditions — such as lack of showers and 10 co-ed bunk beds in one room — are unlivable.
"It feels unsafe. There's men and women in the same bedroom," said former resident Rebecca Rose.
""It's hard for me to get rest," said resident Sean Hill.
"Most of us are trying to find ways to get out and beyond this part of our lives. And this makes it harder and harder to do that," he said.
In a statement to CBC News, B.C. Housing said it is working with RainCity Housing on repairs to the Sechelt shelter and "repairs are currently estimated to be completed in the fall."
"I drive by the shelter every day and there's no work started," said Henderson.
The mayor says he has reached out to B.C. housing minister Ravi Kahlon to intervene with B.C. Housing "to expedite repairs to the shelter so it can open a lot faster," he said.
"And to direct B.C. Housing to communicate with us at a senior level."