British Columbia

Restrictions at supportive housing complex lead some residents to consider becoming homeless again

Residents of a supportive housing complex in central B.C. say its increasingly restrictive rules mean they're being asked to trade their rights and freedom for a roof.

Strictly controlled access, sudden evictions at Knights Inn in Prince George, resident and peer worker say

Melanie Joseph, pictured on Nov. 20, says she's grateful for the roof over her head at the Knights Inn but wonders what she is having to give up to keep it. (Kate Partridge/CBC)

Residents of a supportive housing complex in central B.C. say its increasingly restrictive rules mean they're being asked to trade their rights and freedom for a roof.

It's leading some residents like Melanie Joseph, 45, to consider moving back onto the streets despite the cold weather and lack of services at encampments.

A year ago, Joseph was living in a court-protected homeless encampment a few blocks away from her current lodging, a room at a converted motel in Prince George, B.C., called the Knights Inn. 

She says she's grateful to be warm this time of year, but life at the supportive housing facility — where, she says, access is strictly controlled and residents have been suddenly evicted with the help of police — is taking a toll on her happiness and well-being. 

A high fence now surrounds the building, and Joseph says staff lock and control all entry points almost 24 hours a day.

"Jail is what everybody calls it... They call it 'the compound,'" said Joseph, who pays $375 for her room there.

The Knights Inn was converted to supportive housing units last year. Residents say the restrictions at the site are making it difficult to live there. (Kate Partridge/CBC)

Her experiences are corroborated by Sarah Ferrey, a peer harm reduction worker with Uniting Northern Drug Users (UNDU) who works from an office at the Knights Inn. 

"They say it's for safety... Safety from what? I feel like the staff have been violating us more than anything," Joseph said.

Joseph says she sometimes dreams about moving back to Moccasin Flats, the encampment where she used to live with her 25-year-old daughter and brother, who were both evicted from the Knights Inn after moving in with her.

She says at least she had community and the autonomy to make her own decisions at the encampment.   

"I go to tent city once in a while to visit some friends and… I remember the freedom we had and it almost makes me want to go back," she said.

She says she hasn't heard from her daughter, who has mental health issues, since she was evicted without notice several months ago.

Joseph says her daughter was having a mental health episode and thought staff had put a camera in her smoke detector. She was evicted after she took the cover off the detector to show staff, Joseph said. 

A man with glasses and a moustache stands in front of a banner for the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.
Robert Patterson, lawyer for the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, says creating jail-like conditions at supportive housing complexes undermines the benefits of providing housing to those with complex needs. (Submitted)

Tenants' rights

According to lawyer Robert Patterson with the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, tenants in supportive housing are protected by the Residential Tenancy Act just like any other renter. 

But Patterson says operators who skirt the rules are "ubiquitous" across the province.

"Many housing providers are put in challenging situations where their funding is oftentimes not sufficient for them to really be able to deliver what they're supposed to do, while respecting everyone's rights," he said. 

He says evictions, unreasonable bans on guests, and overly restricting access are the most common issues he's seen in supportive housing. 

Ferrey told CBC News she has personally witnessed three evictions and each time the residents were removed by RCMP without a chance to collect their belongings. 

Ferrey, who supports residents at the Knights Inn four days a week, says she worries about the traumatic nature of these evictions for residents, who may be suffering from mental health issues and addiction.

She says there are some great staff at the Knights Inn, but they need more support and training to better serve the residents — something Joseph agrees with. 

"They're so disconnected from how we are and who we are," Joseph said.

The staff office at the Knights Inn housing complex, pictured on Dec. 4. Residents say entry points are locked at all times, except when staff open the gates to let RCMP cruisers in. (Kate Partridge/CBC)

B.C. Housing deferred questions about eviction policies to the non-profit provider that operates the complex on its behalf, the Prince George Native Friendship Centre (PGNFC). 

In an emailed response to CBC News, PGNFC director of supportive housing Jennifer Harrington said evictions are rare and a "last resort." 

She did not say how many residents have been evicted since the complex opened in November of last year, or how much notice residents are given when they are evicted. 

A community garden with flowers and a painted sign that reads ' Moccasin Flats'.
The Moccasin Flats community garden was established last summer to help homeless people in downtown Prince George grow their own fresh vegetables and fruits, and feel a sense of community at the court-protected encampment. (Jason Peters/CBC News)

Controlled access

Both Joseph and Ferrey say staff at the Knights Inn strictly control access for both residents and visitors. Only visitors on a pre-approved list are allowed, and each resident is only permitted three people on that list.

The PGNFC confirmed that guests must be pre-approved, but says exceptions are made for family and support workers.

Joseph says staff are quick to call the RCMP, including when someone tries to visit who is not on the list.

RCMP say they were called to the Knights Inn 308 times in the year to Nov. 17.

A fire tore through several structures at a homeless encampment in Prince George on Nov. 19. Despite the cold weather and dangerous conditions, some say they prefer to stay unhoused rather than live under the restrictions of supportive housing units. (Kate Partridge/CBC)

Joseph says she's hopeful conditions at the complex can change for the better, but she's not afraid to be homeless again. 

"I thought the whole reason for this place was to get people off the streets and to get us help. They say one thing and they do another," she said. 

B.C. Housing has leased the Knights Inn for two years, meaning it is scheduled to close as supportive housing in November 2023.


Kate Partridge is an Associate Producer and Reporter in Prince George on the unceded territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. You can contact her at