A memorandum agreement is being signed with between the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Friendship Society for the Longhouse at the Stampede Grounds to be used as temporary emergency shelter if needed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

A memorandum agreement is being signed with between the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Friendship Society for the Longhouse at the Stampede Grounds to be used as temporary emergency shelter if needed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Cariboo Friendship Society plans for temporary shelter expansion at longhouse

It would not be used to house people with COVID-19

A memorandum of understanding between the city and the Cariboo Friendship Society for the Longhouse at the Stampede Grounds will have to be amended.

Last week council unanimously approved a draft agreement for it to be used for housing people with COVID to isolate based on a presentation made by the Cariboo Friendship Society executive director Rosanna McGregor and B.C. Housing in July 2020.

Read more: Longhouse proposed for possible COVID-19 housing in Williams Lake

On Monday, however, McGregor clarified to the Tribune that the Longhouse will be used for temporary emergency shelter expansion and will not be used to house anyone that tests positive with COVID-19, contrary to the presentation made in July.

The temporary expansion will allow physical distancing to be maintained.

Mayor Walt Cobb said Tuesday the plans have changed and city staff has been in discussion with the CFS to clarify exactly what those plans are.

“We don’t know yet if it has to come back to council for further clarification or whether it’s just a matter of amendment,” Cobb said.

McGregor said there will be room in the Longhouse for 20 small pods with a bed in each one.

A BC Housing spokesperson noted in an e-mailed response that it will be providing funding for the initiative and recognized supports are needed in Williams Lake to help people experiencing homelessness during this difficult time.

Clients from the downtown Cariboo Friendship Society shelter will move to the Longhouse and will be able to properly social distance.

The Society’s current shelter rooms have bunk beds that do not allow for proper social distancing.

Each pod will have a single bed, nightstand and bedding.

The temporary shelter expansion will operate from Dec. 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020 and the Cariboo Friendship Society will have the option of extending the site if needed.

In Williams Lake, BC Housing has secured an additional site with six spaces for people experiencing homelessness to self-isolate, which includes those who don’t have symptoms but are immuno-compromised or who have a high risk of contracting the virus.

To date, BC Housing said it has secured 893 self-isolation spaces across 44 sites in the Interior region.

BC Housing and its partners are continuing to look at a number of ways to bring people inside and options continue to evolve along with the needs of the community and said it will provide more information if and when additional indoor sheltering sites are made available.

McGregor also said the society will be hiring and anyone interested in working at the temporary shelter from Dec. 1 to March 31, 2021 is encouraged to inquire.

Read more: 911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began


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