Chance to speak up on temporary shelter in Port Coquitlam
Residents of Port Coquitlam will get a chance to weigh in on a temporary homeless shelter being proposed for the Northside Church Grace Campus.
Council is expected to set a date at its meeting Monday evening for a public input opportunity on the proposal, which would allow the Hope For Freedom Society to operate a shelter during the winter months. If the initiative is approved, it would provide a bridge between the cold/wet weather mat program's end and the construction in 2014 of a permanent facility at 3030 Gordon Ave. in Coquitlam.
Coun. Michael Wright, who chairs both the social inclusion and smart growth committees, which have overseen the proposal so far, said he has heard several concerns from residents. Unlike the cold/wet weather mat program, which rotated between churches and bused homeless to the various locations, the bridge shelter would remain at Northside Church throughout the winter. Wright said some residents fear that homeless people could loiter in the neighbourhood outside shelter operating hours.
Despite the concerns, he said he will likely support the plan when council votes on final reading.
"I think we have enough safeguards in place," he said. "At the same time, I am very willing to say that if those safeguards are not met, I am going to be the first one to say we will close it down."
Hope for Freedom Society (HFFS) director Rob Thiessen said anyone loitering at the site will be asked to leave. If they fail to comply, staff will call 911.
Thiessen said HFFS will also provide two community contacts who would be available to respond to concerns from residents 24 hours a day.
"Every effort will be made to accommodate each person who arrives at the shelter," he said. "Five years of experience with the cold/wet weather mat program has demonstrated that the need to prevent persons from entering is infrequent at best, and when it has been necessary, these persons have been compliant."
In order for the proposal to receive the necessary approvals, the Hope For Freedom Society will be required to sign a good neighbour agreement with the city.
Also, instead of a two-year temporary use permit initially sought by Hope For Freedom, city staff have proposed a one-year arrangement, which would mean the society would have to renew its permit in 2013.
PROPOSED SHELTER FACTS
• The bridge shelter would be located at Grace Church (2606 Kingsway Ave., PoCo).
• It would operate between 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. from October to March.
• The facility would house a maximum of 30 people.
• Shelter users would be provided with two hot meals and a take-away lunch.
• Two trained employees would be on site at all times, supported by six to 10 community volunteers.
• No person demonstrating obvious intoxication would be admitted and no alcohol, drugs or aggressive behaviour would be tolerated.