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RDKB injunction highlights homelessness problems

The recent injunction granted to remove unapproved structures at the Granby road property of Peter and Lisa Demski in Grand Forks may be sending poverty stricken adults and youth into the streets.
In late September the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) successfully won an injunction against the Demskis, who jointly own the property about six kilometres up Granby Road on the Granby River, for the removal of trailers housing several people, many of whom are known to be otherwise homeless and may face other challenges.
“The real issue is we have a group of people that are being disenfranchised in the community for a number of reasons - poor, unemployed - being forced into accommodations that are as cheap as possible. People are choosing (Demski’s) because they can’t afford to live anywhere else,” commented Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor. “We also have to recognize that a lot of the people who end up in our community with no place to live are often burdened by more than just poverty.”
Justice Mark McEwan, of the B.C. Supreme Court in Rossland, granted the RDKB’s request to remove 10 trailers from the property that do not comply with the zoning bylaw for regional area D on Sept. 26. The injunction requires the property to be cleaned up by Dec. 1 or the RDKB will be authorized to proceed with the removal, said Mark Andison, director of planning for the region.
The ruling is the culmination of three years of negotiations between the RDKB and the Demskis, Andison noted. While Lisa Demski was willing to consent to the removal of the structures, Peter refused and ultimately the case went to trial. As a result, not only must Peter comply with the court order, he will be solely responsible for court costs, and if necessary the cost of the removal of the trailers, explained Andison.
“Mr. Demski’s been given ample time to make arrangements with the people living in those trailers,” Andison said. “The judge was certainly aware, when making his order, of the time that’s been put into attempting to get those trailers off the property.”
But many of those displace may face extra challenges with mental health issues and addictions problems, Taylor added. While the support programs for people facing these challenges are provincially based, it seems to be landing on local governments to try to help fill the gaps.
“There are not adequate services out there for this group,” Taylor continued. “For us at this point, one choice would be to try to organize some kind of housing option for people that are stuck in these situations but, on the other hand, that ghettoizes a group of poor people all in one spot.”
One stop gap measure will be the Boundary Emergency and Transition Housing Society (BETHS) which is preparing to be open for the upcoming cold weather on Nov. 1. Kristine Eyre, secretary for the society, says they will welcome any of the people displaced by the closure.
“We suspect that perhaps some of them (the people displaced from Demski’s property) might be utilizing the shelter, hopefully they’ll find alternative housing,” said Eyre. “If not, we’re here.”
The Demski arrangement is not unique in the area as other property owners allow squatting or tents to accommodate homeless people in Grand Forks, a situation that Taylor said council will need to be addressing.

“I feel badly about this – I think clearly that we’re missing the big picture here. I think somehow we’ve got to address this problem in our community and across the province,” Taylor concluded.