People evacuated from the their Princeton homes by the November 2021 flood will not face homelessness, promises Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary Similkameen.
“We are not going to let people be homeless,” he told the Spotlight in an interview Monday, March 21.
“I absolutely understand from personal experience and from conversations with many people how stressful and anxiety inducing it is to be uncertain about the future when you are under evacuation.”
Russell said the Canadian Red Cross (CRC), which took over emergency support for flood victims last December, has agreed to continue providing funds to evacuees in commercial accommodations until at least May 31.
Some of the people receiving benefits are in local hotels and motels, and others were sent out of the community to hotels in Penticton, Kamloops, Kelowna and the Lower Mainland.
Initially the CRC was going to pull its support mid-February, when the municipality and the province intervened. A new deadline of March 31 was then set and it has been extended again.
In response to questions from the Spotlight, a spokesman for the CRC provided a written statement.
“If people from eligible households decide the best option is to continue to stay at commercial accommodations, the Red Cross will continue to contribute to the cost of commercial accommodations while people continue to search for longer-term housing options that meet their needs,” Dean Pogas confirmed.
It isn’t certain how many residents are impacted at this time, as some evacuees have returned home or simply exited the system. However originally The CRC registered 371 households, representing 618 people. Two hundred and ninety households were issued one-time $2,000 payments, benefiting 500 individuals.
Four months ago the Town of Princeton applied to the provincial government for money to create a temporary housing camp of 100 units in its industrial park. At that time Mayor Spencer Coyne noted that the housing crisis, resulting in a zero percent vacancy rate, left displaced residents with no options.
Those funds must be approved by the Treasury Board, explained Russell, and that is sometimes a lengthy process.
“I am working really closely with both Emergency Management BC (EMBC) and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to help move the request forward, he said. “The conversations are ongoing which means good things…I’m feeling optimistic.”
Russell added if the interim housing camp does not materialize, the province will ensure supports continue to flow to evacuees who need someplace to live.
The mayor expressed relief that residents will not be abandoned.
“The long-term well being of those impacted who have no home to return too at this time are still very much a concern for myself and our team. We continue to work with B.C. Housing, EMBC and the Red Cross trying to find a solution until people are back in their homes.
The non-government organizations who have been helping people get back into their homes are beginning to wind down. We still have concerns about rental properties and getting renters home as well.”
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