Port Moody considers operating homeless shelter for second month

Port Moody council is rolling out the welcome mat to ensure the area's homeless aren't left out in the cold.

Council directed staff to move ahead with a zoning bylaw amendment that will double the amount of time a temporary overnight shelter can operate at St. Andrew's United Church on St. Johns St.

"We're adding on another month to bump it up to two months," Mayor Mike Clay said following Tuesday night's council meeting.

St. Andrew's is already scheduled to operate a temporary shelter in March and the amendment would allow a temporary shelter to be set up in the church in January as well.

"I'm grateful that's the direction we're heading," said Rob Thiessen of the Hope for Freedom Society.

He said the way the wording to Port Moody's bylaw is crafted will allow the community to operate a shelter two months every year as opposed to simply grant a one-time temporary use.

"We're hopeful we can get that in all three communities because it appears we're still some distance away from getting the permanent shelter built," said Thiessen. "We will have to continue along with some sort of seasonal shelter and from time to time we may need a church to go another month."

A public hearing will still have to be held before any changes to the Port Moody bylaw take effect.

"We've done one month a year for the past five years and we haven't had any substantial problems. The neighborhoods aren't in an uproar," said Clay. "But we may find neighbors say we were OK with one month but now with two months we have some issues."

The Tri-Cities Cold Wet Weather Mat Program will begin operation in November with a temporary shelter at Calgary Baptist Church in Coquitlam. The shelter will move to Coquitlam Alliance Church in December and is scheduled to operate out of Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship in Coquitlam during February.

While a second month at St. Andrews would fill in the gaps in the program, Thiessen isn't giving up on bringing more churches, and communities, on board.

"I'd rather have more churches than fewer churches so we're continuing to work on Port Coquitlam as well," he said.

In July, Port Coquitlam council refused to issue a temporary use permit to house the shelter at Grace Church on Kingsway Avenue in response to concerns from some neighbours.

A permanent shelter and transition housing development is expected to be in place by 2015 at 3030 Gordon Ave. in Coquitlam.


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