Terrace council to set up homelessness group

Move is in reaction to growing number of homeless in northwestern B.C. city

COUNCIL has decided not to include a homeless person on the group it wants to set up to deal with the growing homelessness problem.

Instead, it believes the group, when formed, could best be productive by visiting a soup kitchen frequented by the homeless and by speaking with the social services workers who work with them.

The decision came out of a council committee of the whole meeting Oct. 22, the first occasion councillors have met to discuss the goals and composition of a homelessness task group.

The call for a task group first came from councillor Brian Downie in response to a city survey of the homeless which discovered their numbers have grown since the first survey was conducted in 2014.

Downie, at the Oct. 22 meeting, suggested the group should have short and long term goals.

The short term goal would be to figure out how to make life easier for the homeless and others affected by the problem before the winter, and a longer term solution would include finding lasting solutions and preparing a report, council members decided.

Councillors also accepted a city staff recommendation that the group number no more than six to eight people.

Councillor Michael Prevost first brought up the idea of having a homeless person on the group which was a suggestion by city staffers asked by council to recommend potential group members.

“It’s the stories of people that really carry weight and humanize what we are experiencing in our community specifically,” he said.

Downie said that looking at it another way, perhaps the group should visit the daily soup kitchen at the All Nations Centre where it could meet with a larger number of homeless people.

It could also visit the Terrace and District Community Services Society to speak with the case workers there and most likely have someone from there on the task group.

“I think it would be really important that this task group go … and meet with a group of people than try to get one individual to come to the task group meeting,” said Downie.

“We need their input, but that doesn’t mean they have to be on the task force,” added councillor Sean Bujtas about how to select who would sit on the group from the staff list. “Let’s get the people who want to be on the task force.”

While no final group membership list has been set, council members are leaning toward people of institutions such as BC Housing, social services agencies, the RCMP, Chamber of Commerce, Kermode Friendship Society and the health sector.

The city hopes that the group, once appointed, will begin meeting by December.

Council seemed uncertain whether anything would be accomplished before the winter.

The group will also seek public input once it has formed.