Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hopes for progress on homeless shelter buoyed by new appointment

The appointment of a new Homelessness Coordinator for the North Coast is providing a sliver of hope that the long discussed accommodations for those in the most need will soon move forward.

The North coast Transition Society successfully recruited a coordinator for its plans to tackle the growing homeless situation in the city, and Alex Weir has taken up the challenge of getting the process underway with an eye on having a shelter of some description established by march of 2009.

The Daily news provided some background on the need and the plans in Monday’s paper.

Homeless advocates hope that shelter will open soon
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, January 21, 2008
Pages one and three

A new emergency shelter for men and women is a project that has been under consideration for some time, but one that may finally be moving forward in 2008.

To support the implementation process of a shelter that will serve the needs of Prince Rupert and Port Edward, the North Coast Transition Society recently recruited Alex Weir for the new position of Community Homelessness Coordinator.

Weir is the recently retired band manager of Gitxaala [Kitkatla] Nation and a former lawyer who will take on the time-limited appointment between now and March 31, 2009, and hopes to see the establishment of a new shelter before his time is through.

"Our society felt the need to step up to this challenge due to the emerging crisis among those peoples at risk of homelessness," said Christine White, executive director of the North Coast Transition Society.

Homelessness has many faces; the stereotypical face that most people identify with is the person living on the street. However, we now know there are many other types of homeless people, examples being couch-surfing, foreclosures or loss of employment. And statistics show us that there are far too many people who are one paycheque away from becoming homeless.”

The local Aboriginal Steering Committee on Homelessness, chaired by Mailyn Bryant, encouraged the Transition Society to recruit someone to coordinate this implementation phase, and Weir’s position will support local organizations in achieving the goals of past community efforts, such as the 2007 report headed by Michael Curnes.

No decisions have yet been made regarding the service operator deemed most suitable to manage the future shelter, but it is possible an innovative partnership among existing service suppliers will operate it, or even a new society altogether.

“I’m more than pleased that a key part of my responsibilities is expanding our local advisory process, notably gaining even more participation from members of local First Nations,” said Weir.

“Our provincial government proclaims its interest in achieving a new relationship with First Nations.”

“And I’m honoured to be a part of this local effort to work with government officials at all levels to support First Nation members to gain their accommodation and their related support needs, identified by our community’s earlier review process,” said Weir.

As Community Homelessness Coordinator, Weir will aim to identify an organization that will oversee the development of the emergency shelter, and schedule events and activities surrounding homelessness and produce appropriate reports, all with the goal of establishing a shelter before March 2009.

“This is something that’s been in the works for a couple of years now, and hopefully this new Community Homelessness Coordinator’s position is going to bring it to fruition,” said Steering Committee member Captain Gary Shiels. “I would hope it’s going to be a shelter that will be able to house both men and women and families, and go even beyond that and have some type of transitional housing apartments with as well.”

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