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BC Housing 'concerned' about Kamloops mayor's unannounced shelter visits

“It's our responsibility to know why people are laying all over the streets. I mean, it's not good for them, they don't want to be there," said Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson.
Moira House shelter, located at 600 Kingston Ave.

BC Housing is concerned about Kamloops’ new mayor visiting city shelters unannounced, according to correspondence sent by the provincial agency to city hall.

Castanet Kamloops obtained an email sent Monday to the city by a senior BC Housing staffer noting Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson showed up without warning at Moira House early Sunday morning — something described in the email as "not appropriate behaviour."

Moira House is a shelter facility run by Canadian Mental Health Association Kamloops located at 600 Kingston Ave., near the Halston Bridge.

“This continues to be a concerning pattern,” the email said.

The email indicated BC Housing would like to establish a process for Hamer-Jackson to follow in the future if he wants to visit a shelter.

In a statement sent to Castanet Kamloops on Monday, a BC Housing spokesperson confirmed the agency wants a process in place because front-line shelter staff are focused on providing support to vulnerable people — not dealing with unannounced visitors.

“Operators have established processes to support visits to these sites but are unable to accommodate unannounced visits given how disruptive they are to the privacy of shelter guests and to frontline staff who are stretched and working in very challenging circumstances,” the statement said.

“We welcome those wanting to visit a shelter to contact the operator or BC Housing in advance to arrange an appropriate time to visit.”

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he was at Moira House early Sunday morning with a few city councillors looking for a wheelchair-accessible shelter bed for a person he met on the street.

“I've done this for years, and it's to try to get people off the streets,” Hamer-Jackson said.

“There was a guy laying right on Tranquille Road for a day and a half, and this morning there's people in front of the Tim Hortons. So it's about trying to get people into shelters and off the streets, you know? I don't know. I would never have thought that would be a problem.”

Hamer-Jackson said when he arrived at Moira House to ask about space, a man greeted them and provided a phone number. Hamer-Jackson said he called that number and was told the shelter was full — after which they left.

“It's our responsibility to know why people are laying all over the streets. I mean, it's not good for them, they don't want to be there," he said.

"I don't care if you're the mayor or if you're a citizen in the community seeing somebody struggling on the streets. Why wouldn't you go to the door at the shelter to see if you got any room?”

When asked on Monday if he has been approached by anyone from BC Housing in regards to site visit protocol, Hamer-Jackson said he hadn't yet heard anything.