A city councillor expects increased security and supervision will help address public concern with Salmon Arm’s recently opened emergency shelter.
At its Jan. 23 meeting, council received a letter from a member of the public regarding the Downtown Activity Centre (DAC) which now houses the shelter as well as a day care and the Salmon Arm Storefront School. The writer suggests moving the shelter into the DAC is putting children at “extreme risk.”
“There certainly needs to be a temporary shelter solution; however, the consequences of the City’s inability to plan should not be forced upon individuals that cannot advocate for themselves,” says the writer, arguing the shelter will require child care workers to be “more diligent in sweeping the areas for safety and dealing with potential encounters, on top of caring for the actual most vulnerable population: children.”
Responding to the letter, Coun. Sylvia Lindgren explained she works for School District 83 at the DAC alternate school, and that staff there have had a number of frank discussions regarding the shelter’s proximity to other organizations running programs in the facility.
“Our perspective is that with the homeless shelter opening up, there will be much improved supervision of the displaced population as they come and go from that area,” said Lindgren. “Currently, they are camping in the same region and are unsupervised and have been known to enter the Downtown Activity Centre through unlocked doors when other events are happening and that gives them access to a number of areas inside the school.
“We feel quite sure that will not happen any longer. That with staff and security personnel in place, that people will be directed to areas that are set aside for them and not be hanging out down near the day-care centre, for instance.”
Lindgren said while everybody would like to see a permanent shelter in place in Salmon Arm, that wasn’t possible this year for a number of reasons, and staff and the province have both been working on that issue.
“We hope that maybe that could happen in the future but for now the mat program is there and we’re going to make the best of a bad situation I think. Not that it’s a bad spot for them, but just that it’s not ideal in terms of being nighttime only.
“So while we appreciate people writing in to let us know their concerns, I’m hopeful this is going to be a good solution for the interim while we make a long-term plan.”
Mayor Alan Harrison said he contacted the letter writer, and one of the things talked about was the supervision piece.
The shelter at the DAC is expected to be open daily from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. until April 20, 2023.
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