Cori Ramsay seeks alternative housing options as city evicts people from homeless camps
As Prince George, B.C., hands out eviction notices to people living in two homeless camps in the northern city, one councillor is asking the province to step in and come up with a solution to the housing crisis.
Prince George city council voted in favour of a “safe streets bylaw” at their council meeting on Monday night, as protesters camped outside the building to demonstrate their concerns with how the city is handling homelessness.
Coun. Cori Ramsay, along with two of her colleagues, did not support the bylaw.
“It is, in effect, a nuisance bylaw that does fine people for loitering and for panhandling,” Ramsay told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.
“Like many communities across the province, we are dealing with these encampments and we don’t necessarily have the resources to be dealing with them or perhaps even the knowhow on what is, I think, appropriate, because housing doesn’t really fall under the jurisdiction of local government.”
Instead, she suggested B.C. Housing look into no-barrier housing options, where anyone can stay without restrictions and support services are offered. That could take the form of a formalized homeless encampment or a shelter, she said.
Ramsay worries that some homeless individuals can’t access shelter due to prohibitions on drugs or alcohol on the premises, or because they have been banned from the shelter system. She said she asked a bylaw officer where people go if they can’t get into a shelter and was told there is nowhere else.
Such barriers are what lead to the creation of typical homeless camps without services, she said.
“I have to ask the question that, you know, if [a camp] was prettier, if it had leadership and organization, if it had health professionals networking with the individuals in there, if it was a formalized process, would it be an easier pill to swallow, for a lack of a better phrase? I have to ask the question because my community is in chaos right now.”
In a statement to CBC News, B.C. Housing said it is working with the City of Prince George and non-profit shelter operators to meet the needs of people using those systems. However, they said they would only look at an organized encampment as a last resort, after all indoor housing options have been exhausted.
“Encampments aren’t working for anyone, especially for people living in them who are in need of safe and secure housing with supports,” the statement said.
- Opera music blaring outside Prince George drop-in space used as ‘cruel’ deterrent, say outreach workers
B.C. Housing noted that there is shelter space available in Prince George, but some shelters do not allow substance use inside.
“We understand this operating model is valuable for some but does not necessarily meet the needs of everyone experiencing homelessness,” they said.
Ramsay, however, doesn’t feel that her city or others in the province are getting the support they need from the provincial government or the federal government.
“This is not a Prince George issue,” she said. “This is a B.C., province-wide issue.”