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Tents pitched at Nelson City Hall to protest loss of homelessness program

Protesters want new location found for Coordinated Access Hub
Colin Goddard stands next to his tent outside Nelson City Hall. Goddard and a group of homeless residents are protesting the closure of the Coordinated Access Hub, a federally funded program that offered a variety of social services under one roof. Photo: Tyler Harper

Colin Goddard’s home is a small tent, barely big enough to stretch out in, that he’s set up only steps outside Nelson City Hall.

It might be the safest place he’s stayed in a long time. Goddard has lived in Nelson for 22 years, and spent the last winter camping at various locations around the city.

“I get told to leave here, I get told to leave there. So I just keep moving on. It becomes a part of your routine daily to move camp and finding somewhere new to go.”

But Goddard says he’s tired of constantly moving around, and he’s not the only one.

A small group of tents are pitched on the front lawn of city hall as unhoused residents protest the Coordinated Access Hub’s closure earlier this month as well as a need for more supportive housing.

The Hub was managed by the Nelson Committee on Homelessness and offered clients access to a variety of health and social services, an episodic overdose prevention site, and a warm place to eat and relax. It wasn’t a shelter, but it provided almost everything else an unhoused person might need.

It operated at 521 Vernon St. from July 2021 until earlier this month when a decrease in federal funding and the loss of an operating grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities forced its closure.

“People don’t want us out in public? Fine, give us a building where we can go and have the same amenities as everybody else,” said Goddard.

Approximately 12 people were camped outside Nelson City Hall as of March 21. Photo: Tyler Harper

About a dozen people are currently camping at city hall, although that fluctuates. Goddard said he expects more will arrive.

Lisa Crowe, who has lived in Nelson for two years without stable housing, is among the campers. She said the Hub’s true value was as a brick-and-mortar location for the street community.

“It was a place that I felt safe to to sleep sometimes. It’s the only place to go get some food, meet up with people, connect with a lot of different resources all in one spot.”

Without the Hub operating, Goddard is concerned by how the street community might react. Camping at city hall, he said, is at least a harmless form of protest.

“People are going to start doing crime because they’ve got nothing to eat, and they’ve got no way to make money. The Hub fed us and if you’re fed 99 per cent of your troubles are gone.”

The protest at city hall, however, has so far been relatively trouble free.

Insp. Kris Rice of the Nelson Police Department told the Nelson Star that there have been no criminal issues requiring police intervention, and that officers are making regular safety visits.

Representatives from Nelson Street Outreach, ANKORS, REDUN and Nelson Mental Health and Substance Use are also checking in, and a portable toilet has been set up nearby.

Mayor Janice Morrison described the protest as a day-by-day situation being monitored by the city. She also acknowledged how valuable the Hub was to the community.

“We all like to be able to go to one spot and get the majority of what we need to get done. And so that concept is important for people who have mental-health challenges or a brain injury,” said Morrison.

“To tell them that they have to go here for this and there for that, it becomes more challenging, and then you risk less follow through.”

Morrison added the city has been working to find an alternative site for services, but conceded she wasn’t sure where that might be given the lack of publicly owned options downtown.

Crowe meanwhile isn’t sure how long the protest will last. She said she plans to stay on-site for the time being as a way of drawing attention to the issue.

“We’ve got people advocating on multiple ends of it. I think a lot of people wouldn’t mind just staying here for now but there’s also other locations [in Nelson] that have enough space that we could set up a little tent city if we’re able to maybe operate one that’s working OK.”

Protesters at Nelson City Hall say they want a permanent location restored for the Coordinated Access Hub, as well as more supportive housing in the city. Photo: Tyler Harper

The Hub is the second social service to close its location over the last year in Nelson.

In May 2023, Interior Health shut down the Nelson Friendship Outreach Clubhouse due to public backlash over plans to install a safe inhalation site. The Clubhouse has mostly sat empty in the interim, and IH has not announced an alternate location.

Nelson CARES still operates Stepping Stones emergency shelter at 816 Vernon St., which can house up to 17 people for stays of up to 30 days, and ANKORS offers a safe injection site at 101 Baker St.

Nelson’s Salvation Army ended its drop-in breakfast and lunch service in March 2023 but still maintains a food bank, as does the Nelson Community Food Centre. Our Daily Bread meanwhile continues to run its soup kitchen.


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Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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