THE KSAN House Society is looking for a new place to house homeless people during the coldest months of the year.
After recent renovations a building behind the society’s main homeless shelter on Hall St., which was used as a “damp” shelter for the homeless who drink or use drugs, is not considered safe for employees and can’t hold as many people as it once did, said the society’s director of programs, Jan LeFrancois.
So the society is looking elsewhere for space and without new quarters, LeFrancois says the service won’t be offered.
“No space, no [shelter],” said LeFrancois.
“There are a lot of homeless people that live in our community and surrounding areas that basically live off the land, but in the winter months would not survive.”
Because the damp shelter houses those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, regular shelter programs which require sobriety would not work, she said.
“If forced to quit, they could die,” said LeFrancois. “These people have burned all of their bridges for the most part, but that doesn’t make them disposable. They’re still human.”
The old location has now been converted into offices for society workers, a meeting room has been set up and a community-use kitchen installed.
Fire doors have also been installed and that makes it hard to keep an eye on activities, meaning there are worker safety issues, said LeFrancois.
She said the society wants to use the space for southside community services, adding that there’s a larger proportion of low-income families that live on the southside who lack the means to easily get to the northside of the city where the majority of the city’s social services are based.
As well, having sober clients in the society’s regular homeless shelter mingle with those using the damp shelter doesn’t work, LeFrancois added.
At the same time, damp shelter demand is increasing from 46 males and 13 females using it for a total of 490 times in 2008 to 100 males and 26 females using it 1,142 times in 2011.
So far, the society hasn’t had much luck in finding a place.
One drawback is that while the provincial BC Housing agency will pay for staff and basics, it won’t pay for rent.
That means the space must be donated and it ideally should have a shower, washrooms, laundry and kitchen facilities and be able to hold at least 10 people in separate male and female sleeping areas.
Cameras should be installed, too.
The damp shelter opens around Nov. 1 each year and closes the following spring thanks to a grant provided by the provincial government’s BC Housing agency.
It finances a number of extreme weather shelters in BC.
The city has already turned down a request by the society to use the basement of city hall.
But city council has invited Ksan executive director Carol Sabo to provide more information about what’s needed in hopes someone else may step forward.