The District of Houston council has now given its blessing to a housing proposal being developed by the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre that would give shelter to women and children fleeing domestic violence.
This is the second housing proposal being pursued by the centre as a first one, affordable housing for Indigenous people, was shelved because the provincial government hasn’t announced financing this year for such construction.
A friendship centre official presented the new proposal to council Aug. 4 and, following its consideration, council decided at its Aug. 18 meeting to provide the friendship centre with a support letter to be included in an application to the provincial B.C. Housing agency for money.
The support letter also affirms council’s earlier decision to negotiate a long-term lease with the friendship centre for a District of Houston-owned vacant lot at 3448 10th Street. That decision was originally tied to the affordable housing proposal.
Speaking at the Aug. 4 council meeting, friendship centre housing advisor Lydia Howard told council tenancy at a transition house would vary from immediate and short term housing to periods ranging from six to 12 months.
She said there was a need for such housing in the region, noting that there is no emergency housing of this kind in Smithers.
Council members did wonder if Smithers would be considered ahead of Houston for transition housing, with Howard noting that a Houston location would eliminate women and children having to travel elsewhere.
And she said it was likely that people from outside Houston and area would use locally-provided safe housing but that the friendship centre could place a priority on housing local residents.
The affordable housing proposal called for a childcare centre to be located on the ground floor of a building but, with the shift in focus, that space would now be occupied by people providing support and other services for transition housing residents.
Howard said the friendship centre now employs one mental health counsellor and would like to hire another one.
Within the Houston area, the friendship centre offers mental health services, programs for pregnant mothers, programs for young children, after-school programs, a youth program and assists with children in foster care.