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City to adopt ‘centralized approach’ to homeless encampment

Prince George City Council is endorsing a ‘centralized encampment management approach’ when it comes to overnight sheltering in the city.

Council voted on the matter at tonight’s (Monday) council meeting.

“This strategy will be presented at a future council meeting,” said Director of Public Safety Adam Davey.

“The proposed amendments to the Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw include provisions allowing homeless persons to set up temporary shelters at Lower Patricia.”

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Davey noted the city doesn’t have the legal authority to ban overnight sheltering throughout the city until suitable housing for every inhabitant is provided.

He also noted there are trade-off costs to both centralized and decentralized approaches.

“A centralized approach produces numerous problems by focusing it in one geographic  area, as opposed to spreading discord over a larger area,” Davey explained.

A similar approach was proposed to the previous council in July, but the Council at the time voted against it.

“The issue I’m having is I cannot, in good conscience, commit to the status quo option going forward, it’s just not working,” said Councillor Cori Ramsay.

Councillor Ron Polillo agreed.

“There’s pros and cons for both, but I believe strongly we need to move forward, and this is moving forward with a broader strategy with a new approach with the hopes of making some progress,” he said.

Polillo noted the city would have to work with all residents residents, particularly in the Millar Addition closely to help them through this.

Mayor Simon Yu later noted he would be personally reaching out to those residents of the Millar Addition, as well as visit the encampment and speak to the residents.

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“We know with the encampment there, it is going to stay there,” said Councillor Brian Skakun.

“People are going to find homes in the shelters, people are coming from out of town, and it’s just going to be a revolving door.”

Councillors Kyle Sampson and Garth Frizzell noted the location of the Lower Patricia Encampment is not an ideal spot.

“The province has constrained us to make sure our dehoused people are able to live in a spot that’s in a flood zone in the middle of a road allotment, what a terrible location, it’s not good, it’s not a healthy, safe place to be living in,” Frizzell said.

“Frankly I actually don’t think it best serves the people who need to take shelter, I don’t think it’s near resources. It’s not across the river and down the way. We hear the Friendship Centre has some of the best resources, there’s laundry and showers and storage facilities, this is quite a distance from that, this is quite a distance from St. Vincent de Paul,” Sampson added.

Sampson also motioned to direct administration to bring back a report with options to increase police presence in the Millar Addition and downtown as well as options for regular patrols in the same area, which was carried.

Other items discussed at tonight’s meeting included an update to the city’s housing needs report, and a potential practice facility for the Prince George Kodiaks.

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