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Port Coquitlam ponders homeless shelter

Since the cold/wet weather mat program ended in April, the Hope For Freedom Society, a homeless outreach group, has been trying to find a location to house a winter shelter until the permanent facility can be built at 3030 Gordon Avenue. - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Since the cold/wet weather mat program ended in April, the Hope For Freedom Society, a homeless outreach group, has been trying to find a location to house a winter shelter until the permanent facility can be built at 3030 Gordon Avenue.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

A Port Coquitlam councillor said he is reticent to support a temporary homeless shelter at a local church without a firm commitment from the province to build a permanent facility in Coquitlam.

Coun. Brad West told council he fears the province will “wiggle out” of its commitments on the 3030 Gordon Ave. project, putting pressure on PoCo to turn a temporary shelter into a permanent one.

“There is a potential for the provincial government to pull the rug out from under us before the new homeless shelter is built,” he said. “We don’t want a situation where a temporary homeless shelter becomes a permanent shelter because the province reneges on commitments to build the shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave. [in Coquitlam].”

He asked city staff to seek confirmation from the province that it is committed to building the Coquitlam shelter.

Since the cold/wet weather mat program ended in April, the Hope For Freedom Society, a homeless outreach group, has been trying to find a location to house a winter shelter until the permanent facility is built in 2014. The society has settled on Northside Church’s Grace campus on Kingsway Avenue and is currently seeking a temporary user permit to operate a shelter there between October and March for the next two years.

West was not the only member of council to voice concerns.

Coun. Glenn Pollock said the proposal puts too much of a burden on one neighbourhood.

The previous cold/wet weather mat program shifted the shelter between various churches and bused the homeless people to the locations each night. The new proposal would see a stationary shelter and would allow users of the facility to walk to the building.

Residents in the neighbourhood fear this could lead to increased loitering, a problem Pollock echoed during Monday night’s meeting.

“I am going to struggle to support this,” he said. “I don’t think it is fair to the neighbourhood to have it there for two years.”

A public input opportunity on the shelter will be held in council chambers on June 11 at 7 p.m. during the city’s regular scheduled meeting.

In a letter to the city, society director Rob Thiessen said that anyone loitering at the facility will be asked to leave. Police will be called if people fail to comply. Thiessen said he would also provide two community contacts who would be available to respond to concerns from residents 24 hours a day.

If the shelter is approved, it would run daily between 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. from October to March, and would house a maximum of 30 people. Two trained employees would be on site at all times, supported by six to 10 volunteers.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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