Storage and washrooms now available to homeless under pilot project

The city's homeless now have a place to store their personal items as part of a pilot project now up and running at one location and about to get going at another in the downtown.

Since Sept. 6, the Prince George Native Friendship Centre has been operating the service at 181 Quebec St., across from the Ketso Yoh men's shelter. And an Association Advocating for Women and Children is to have one up and running at its 144 George St. building by the end of this month.

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The PGNFC's Quebec Street location, which also provides washroom facilities, is home to about 60 large bins and space appears to be running out as word has gotten around.

It's also drawn upbeat reviews from the users, who have said it eases the burden of carrying around and keeping track of their possessions.

Under a check-in and check-out system, outreach workers keep track of who owns what. There are limits on how much clients can drop off and how long they can be stored. And, of course, illegal drugs, weapons and explosives are prohibited, as are perishable items.

It's been open six days a week, closed on Sunday, while the hours have been going through adjustments to best suit the needs of the users, the City's strategic iniatives and partnerships director Chris Bone said in a report to council.

BC Housing is covering the cost of the lease and improvements to the building as well as the two outreach workers while the City is helping with the operating costs and a full-time site coordinator.

As for AWAC, executive director Connie Abe said a drop-in service is in the works where there would not only be storage for 60 to 80 bins but access to washrooms, showers and laundry.

It will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, seven days a week and be open to men as well as women. While AWAC provides outreach services to both genders, the shelter at 141 George was previously open to women only.

"It was just a matter of going to the board and saying this is what is needed in the community," Abe said. "I think it's what is needed in the community, I want to try it and I want to see if it has an impact."

Abe said the original plan was to provide storage only in a partnership with the City and BC Housing but through a review by Community Partners Addressing Homeless, a drop-in service was found to be a need.

In May, council directed staff to work with up to three social agencies to develop ways to make their washrooms available for public use. Cost was estimated at about $36,000 at the time.

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