Work on establishing a permanent year-round shelter in Cranbrook is ongoing, but will still take time.
Currently, the Travelodge is being used as a temporary shelter while still operating as a hotel.
“It’s grown in beds since it initially opened: we have 40 shelter beds right now, plus an additional eight nightly beds,” said Nancy Reid, Community Connections’ executive director. “We have, since the beginning of this fiscal year, served 203 unique individuals.”
In that time, the Travelodge has had 11,500 nightly stays and 35,700 meals have been served to people staying at the shelter.
Staff have been able to reverse 14 overdoses at that location so far in 2022.
On Feb. 1, 2021 Cranbrook city council voted in favour of rezoning a parcel of land on 16th Avenue North, beside the Memorial Arena, for a year-round homeless shelter.
Since then, some complications have come up.
“That turned out to be cost-prohibitive as a leased space, with the amount of renovations that would be required,” said Tyler Baker, director for regional development with BC Housing. “We just put that option on pause while we looked at some other more long-term options in the community.”
BC Housing has been looking for other options for a site that would make more sense from a cost perspective.
Officials are looking for a building that could meet a number of standards, such as space for a kitchen and proximity to services or public transit.
“BC Housing is actively looking in the community for sites that meet those criteria, and working through the preliminary steps to evaluate those sites,” said Baker.
“We are working diligently. Every site does not work out for a number of reasons along the way, but it doesn’t mean we’re not working. There’s a lot of requirements as we identify sites and try to get them operational.”
Baker said he’s confident that BC Housing will have a location identified soon.
“We will be communicating with the wider community once we have a site identified,” said Baker.
In recent years, Cranbrook’s homeless population has been steadily growing. This is due to a number of factors, such as a lack of income, discrimination, health, availability of affordable housing or a combination of any of those.
“The path to homelessness is really different for every individual,” said Rachel McGeachie, supportive housing advisor with BC Housing. “That’s why we really rely on having a community that is empathetic, patient and understanding in order to have successful housing projects.”
That said, rumours still abound that homeless people are being brought into the community.
“There is no longer a Greyhound, so it’s hard to imagine how someone actually does get bussed here,” said Reid.
“I do know that sometimes tour buses pull up to the Travelodge to access the restaurant there. That’s a group of people who are on a guided tour and they need to have a meal somewhere. They get off the bus at that location, and that seems to be when the rumour mill will pop back up again.
“There has been no organized in-busing of people on our part or BC Housing’s part,” continued Reid. “That rumour goes everywhere, across the province. It’s not true here, and it’s not true there.”