Several members of the community came forward at Tuesday’s council meeting to share their thoughts and ask questions about winter homelessness initiatives.
Last week, Portsmouth Olympic Harbour was identified as a potential site, and Letitia Flett of Our Livable Solutions (OLS) said after a site visit on November 10 it’s validity was confirmed.
Flett added to council that the quick turnaround to try and get this project off the ground resulted in less community consultation than OLS would have liked.
She said that the sleeping cabins community idea reflects that homelessness is not a one size fits all issue.
“Many of the people we aim to serve with a sleeping cabin community are not ready for the traditional housing first system and may not be a good fit for the degree of congregate living inherent in the traditional shelter system,” Flett said.
“Many of these people that we want to help would also need assistance completing their instrumental activities of daily living.”
Flett outlined that every community would have a care coordinator on site that would help connect community members to service providers, as well as attending meetings acting as an advocate on behalf of residents of the cabins.
Flett was also asked by Councillor Hill whether investing in sleeping cabins could lead to spreading resources to thinly to different projects, and if funds would be better served enhancing existing systems.
Flett said while those are important investments, the city should be looking at more long term solutions.
“I don’t think living in an emergency shelter is anybody’s idea of a life or a fulfilling existence, and it’s not what a shelter is designed to do,” Flett said.
“I think we need to look at the immediate but we also need to look at how to move forward in a different way so we have more people transitioning from homelessness.”
Some concerns have been drawn regarding the location of Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, considering it’s relatively far away from downtown and a number of services.
Flett, echoing what Mayor Paterson told YGK News last week, says spreading out homelessness services could help with not overloading spaces like the Integrated Care Hub.
Another resident named Andrew McCann who lives in the area said while a number residents that live nearby have brought forward valid concerns about the location, the prevailing sense from a community meeting on Sunday was that the priority needs to be pushing this forward and helping the ten people who will live there.
He also noted that despite the number of concerns raised, Chrystal Wilson and Our Livable Solutions did seem to have a lot of the answers.
However, some residents feel there are a number of things that still need to be addressed.
Another resident, Carolyn Barnett, brought forth a number of concerns including lack of consultation with the surrounding community and a long list of questions that she and other community members feel have gone unanswered.
Barnett pointed towards a number of safety concerns, also asking if council would consider increasing police and bylaw presence in the area.
Council did not make a final decision on the sleeping cabins, and will reopen the discussion at Wednesday’s continuation of the meeting.