Trent Ernst, Editor
At least 17 people, and possibly more, are homeless in Tumbler Ridge.
This stat was presented to Council by TR CARES (Tumbler Ridge Community Association Responding to Extended Services) Coordinator Rose Colledge at the most recent meeting of council on February 3.
Colledge was presenting on the history and activities of the organization, which began in 2000 when the mines shut down the first time. Back then, says Colledge, “it was just a bunch of people helping other people out.” It wasn’t a registered charity as it is now. At the time, she says, there were lots of people coming to town on a fixed income.
“We saw issues then that we are starting to see again,” says Colledge.
TR CARES is best known for their medical shuttle service, which was the first formal program that they ran, but it also started the first thrift store in the community.
Colledge says that, while having 17 homeless people in the community might seem like a high number, it’s actually pretty low. “That’s down from 22 last August,” she says. “In summer, you can sleep in a vehicle, or in a tent.”
But even that is low compared to the 50 identified homeless people who were in town during the construction of the Quality Wind Project. Back then, says Colledge, rent was extremely high. If a person is making $18/hour, but rent is $2500, she says it’s barely livable wages. “I don’t know them all, and I’d predict the numbers are probably double that.”
Who are these people? Colledge says single males make up the highest number, but there are a few single mothers and even a few families.
These people are not going to be found on the street, says Colledge, especially in winter, but are typically going to be couch surfing. Colledge says that there’s a myth going around that a person can’t be evicted in winter. “They can’t turn off your heat, but they can evict you.” She says that if a family is out on the street, the Ministry of Child and Family Development will come and take the children to provide for them, but the parents will have to fend for themselves.
Surviving becomes a difficult proposition here, she says, as there are few services offered in Tumbler Ridge for people who have lost their residence, especially if they also don’t have transportation. “There’s no government agent here,” says Colledge, “no job bank, so we take people to Dawson.”
The organization will provide people in need with food, clothing and shelter, as well as medical assistance through the pharmacy.
TR CARES also manages a contract with Northern Health to run a shuttle service to Prince George, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and even Grande Prairie for patients needing services, but the demand far exceeds the contract. They are paid for 40 trips to Dawson Creek, she says, but they usually hit that number in June or July. “Last year, there were 30,000 volunteer hours driven,” she says.
In addition to this service, TR CARES runs the Safe Shelter program. They have two and a half units, one of which is designated for women who are victims of domestic abuse. In the last 13 months, she says, the organization has helped 23 women, two men and nine children.
And TR CARES operates as an umbrella group for a number of other programs in town: Citizens on Patrol, Restorative Justice, the Tumbler Ridge Victim Services Fund and Work in Progress. These organizations are able to offer tax donations through TR CARES
Colledge says that TR CARES is able to meet the demand for services that they’ve seen, though they are finding it’s harder to get donations. “We’re losing a lot of support with the mines shutting down,” she says. “And it’s not just the mines, but a lot of the businesses are struggling with the mines closing.”
The organization has taken on the maintenance for Hartford Court to supplement their income.
They will be doing their annual golf tournament this year, she says, which is one of the big fundraisers on their calendar.
While the committee lost a few drivers earlier in the year, they have recently picked up a few more people.