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Several locations considered for Creston homeless shelter

Goal is to help unhoused individuals back to being part of the community, Den Society says

The building on Canyon Street is not the only location under consideration for a permanent shelter for the unhoused in Creston.

Creston Town Council recently voted to work with B.C. Housing towards creating a shelter, and suggested the building at 1130 Canyon Street as a possibility. The Creston Valley Den Society will operate the shelter once it’s opened.

Nothing has been set In stone, as far as the location goes, says Trevor Letondre, of the Den Society.

“BC Housing has agreed to back us,” Letondre told the Advance. “We have a few different [possible] locations. But ultimately it will be BC Housing’s choice whether the building is viable or not.”

What everyone can agree on is that there is a need for a shelter. As in most other communities, near and far, the population of unhoused individuals in Creston has visibly grown in recent years. In 2023, a number of unhoused individuals set up a tent camp at the Trinity United Church (TUC) for shelter.

As a result of the tent encampment, the TUC worked to open a temporary shelter (Out Of The Cold) for unhoused individuals in the community to provide protection from the cold and access to better amenities. The shelter opened in January, 2024, and was funded by BC Housing and community donations. It closed on March 31, as the Creston Zoning Bylaw only allows for “Emergency Accommodation (temporary use), not a permanent or long-term facility.

“Over the last three and half months, 98 per cent of our clientele [at Out Of The Cold] have been born and raised in Creston,” Letondre said. “And the need is there.

“I can get these gentlemen off the street. I’ve already talked to most of them, and they’re doing really well. They’re excited to get into a new building. They do understand that there will be programming that needs to be followed as a stipulation.”

Such programming includes Letondre’s own Communications program, his Domestic Violence program, and Letondre’s wife’s Anger Management program.

A proposed shelter would be open 24 hours, as opposed to only partial hours throughout the day, like 7 p.m. to 9 a.m., which are fairly limiting, Letondre said. “Getting a building and having it open 24 hours a day, I can get a lot of these gentlemen off the streets. Because they’ll have things to do during the day. That’s my main goal is to help these people get back to where they were in the community — working and being a part of our community.”

“Once I get a building and get it organized, I can get them back off the street. I can also get the tents off the street, because they use their tents to store their stuff. That’s their life, their whole life, in a tent, so they go there to hang out, so no one can steal their stuff. So once I have a building, then I can store their stuff, which eliminates the tents, because they’ll have a safe, secure space.”

A proper shelter is part of the community it serves, and works towards helping the clientele return to being part of the community. This goal is what separates a proper shelter from a “flophouse.”

“I’ve worked very, very hard in this profession,” Letondre said. “I will not put my name to something like that. I’ve seen many of them, and I refuse. I’ve got structure, I’ve got programming … And in the whole time we’ve operated, we’ve never had a complaint at the Den.”

BC Housing will be visiting Creston to help determine the most viable building for the shelter.

Criteria for a suitable shelter location include:

• Proximity to Services — Near health care facilities, food, banks, downtown core, public transportation, social services;

• Safety — Well-lit areas, mixed-use neighbourhoods, close to police;

• Accessibility — Accessible by public transport, close to major roads and highways, and accessible facilities;

• Zoning Regulations — Compliant with local zoning, laws and regulations (will require spot zoning in Creston);

• Community impact — Locations with community support and involvement.

Letondre said once a location is determined, the building will need to be renovated. But once that begins, process gets underway, hopefully it won’t take long to get the building fixed up, Letondre said.

Barry Coulter

About the Author: Barry Coulter

Barry Coulter had been Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman since 1998, and has been part of all those dynamic changes the newspaper industry has gone through over the past 20 years.
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