The story behind the 3030 Gordon Avenue facility
3030 Gordon was a long time coming to the Tri-Cities. Completed in 2015, it was both the first purpose-built homeless shelter in the Tri-Cities, and RainCity Housing’s (www.raincityhousing.org) first project here. Originally proposed at a strategic workshop of the Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group (www.tricitieshomelessness.ca) in 2007, the community, with support from the local, provincial and federal governments, brought this much needed amenity to the Tri-Cities.
But let’s look back at how people and organizations in our communities played a leading role in making this happen.
In 2006, the Hope for Freedom Society, (www.hopeforfreedom.org) was engaged by the province to carry out a 6 months pilot program of outreach to persons homeless in the Tri-Cities. Their services included reaching out to meet people “where they were” to both prevent and address homelessness, with additional supports of providing socks, showers, assistance to and from doctor’s appointments and advocating on mental health, addiction and housing issues. The pilot program was deemed a success and created a template for government-funded outreach programs across the province which continue to this day.
In the fall of 2007, the Hope for Freedom Society initiated an overnight winter shelter program, the Cold Wet Weather (CWW) Mat Program, for homeless persons in the Tri-Cities. The shelter was housed at host church facilities on a rotating basis for a period of one month each, and operated from 10 PM to 7 AM nightly from October through to the end of March. Shelter guests were bussed from fixed assembly points in the Tri-Cities to the host church location where they were provided with a hot supper and a mat and blankets, and breakfast and a bag lunch the following morning. The initial host churches included Northside Foursquare Church
(www.northsidechurch.ca) in Port Coquitlam, Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship (www.erbf.com), Coquitlam Alliance Church (www.cachurch.ca) and Calvary Baptist Church (https://www.calvarybaptist.ca) in Coquitlam, and St. Andrews United Church in Port Moody,(www.inletunited.ca). The CWW Mat Program continued on in one format or another until the 3030 Gordon Ave. facility opened in December 2015.
In February 2009, the Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group ,represented by Sandy Burpee and the Hope for Freedom Society represented by Rob Thiessen, made a joint delegation to each of the Tri-Cities councils with a framework for moving forward on a Homelessness Action Strategy for the Tri-Cities which included the creation of a permanent emergency shelter and transitional housing facility. The City of Coquitlam subsequently stepped forward and offered to provide a city-owned lot at 3030 Gordon Avenue to the province for such a facility – the result was a memorandum of understanding between the City and BC Housing to create the Tri-Cities Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing Facility.
It wasn’t until 2011 that BC Housing (www.bchousing.org) announced funding for a permanent Tri-Cities Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing facility at 3030 Gordon Avenue, to be operated by RainCity Housing. There was optimism that consultation, development and design, and construction would result in a facility opening in the spring of 2014.
In the spring of 2012, with funding confirmed and planning started for the 3030 Gordon Avenue facility, the Hope for Freedom Society applied to the City of Port Coquitlam (www.portcoquitlam.ca) for a temporary-use permit to operate a temporary seasonal overnight shelter at the Grace Christian Fellowship Church, located at 2606 Kingsway Avenue. This would replace the CWW Mat Program with a walk-in accessible shelter at a fixed location for the entire winter season. The city approved the temporary use permit and the shelter, known as the Tri-Cities Bridge Shelter (to bridge the gap to the opening of the 3030 Gordon Avenue facility) operated from October of that year until the following March. However, the City of Port Coquitlam declined to renew the temporary use permit for Grace Church for the following year, and the Bridge Shelter reverted to the CWW Mat Program format, with shelter guests being bussed to host church locations in the Tri-Cities on a one-month rotating basis. The shelter program continued to operate in this format until the opening of the 3030 Gordon Avenue facility.
Having completed significant consultation in the community and permitting and licensing requirements, construction of the 3030 Gordon Avenue facility started in October 2014 and fingers were crossed that indeed the facility would be open just in time to address anticipated need in the fall of 2015.
December 14, 2015 was a great day in the Tri-Cities with 3030 Gordon accepting people into the brand-new shelter and transitional housing facility. It included 30 shelter beds in single private rooms (20 for men, 10 for women) and 30 transitional housing suites (also 20 for men, 10 for women). The shelter rooms and transitional housing suites operated at full capacity from the day the facility opened. The new residents were overwhelmed with access to a bed and meals, with room for storage of goods and a pet-friendly environment. The provision of supportive programs to help address physical and mental health issues and addiction and recovery were key to providing opportunities for change for those that may have felt helpless. The facility also included 3 – 10 bed dormitories which were to be used as an Extreme Weather Response shelter during periods of exceptionally inclement winter weather for persons on the street that did not have access to a shelter room.
What started as a recognized need and a dream in 2007 is now a well-established facility providing shelter and supportive services to those that need it.