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More compassion for homeless needed — Police
Concerns about crime in downtown Port Coquitlam resulting from the presence of a nightly homeless shelter last fall and winter were overrated and a little more understanding and compassion might have eased fears, says the Coquitlam RCMP.
Cpl. Jamie Chung said there was no increase in crime because of the shelter that operated out of the Northside Foursquare Church on Kingsway Avenue from October to March but residents living nearby may have been worried about homeless people in their neighbourhood.
Neither break-and-enters nor drug dealing escalated during those months in the neighbourhood, although concerns about drug dealing were raised at a PoCo council meeting during which a temporary use permit for this year's shelter was denied.
Both the operator of the shelter, Hope for Freedom Society's Rob Thiessen, and a neighbour reported what they believed to be drug dealing but no shelter users were involved, Chung said.
He said people sometimes fear for their safety when a shelter is in operation near them. "But it's not really a public safety issue," he said, adding police did receive calls about "suspicious" people in the neighbourhood who weren't doing anything but walking, sleeping and sometimes urinating in public.
"I can understand people's perceptions," Cpl. Chung said. "If there was a homeless shelter next to me, I would think the same. But I would have to think deeper… We should be really a bit more compassionate."
He said giving homeless people a home, albeit temporary, is the least society can do and problems such as public urination would be eliminated if homeless people had access to a bathroom.