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Shelter ready to open after Good Neighbour Agreement signed

Port Coquitlam council approved a Good Neighbour Agreement Monday that it hopes will ease tensions between residents near Grace Church and the operator of a homeless shelter in the church.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Port Coquitlam council approved a Good Neighbour Agreement Monday that it hopes will ease tensions between residents near Grace Church and the operator of a homeless shelter in the church.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

It’s said good fences make good neighbours.

But how about a homeless shelter?

Port Coquitlam council approved a Good Neighbour Agreement Monday that it hopes will ease tensions between residents near Grace Church and the operator of a homeless shelter in the church.

The document includes a stipulation that members of the Hope for Freedom Society (HFFS) meet with neighbours weekly in January, when the organization will run a shelter at the Kings-way Avenue church. A letter is also being sent to area residents that will include contact information for HFFS officials and key city staff.

Coun. Mike Forrest said he believes the agreement shows the city is willing to work with residents.

“I hope the community can understand there is an attempt here to try and involve them,” he said. “I would hope these things can proceed.”

Forrest cautioned residents to be careful not to blame the shelter for all of the neighbourhood’s problems, noting that there will likely still be issues along Kingsway and in the area.

Coun. Glenn Pollock concurred with Forrest, noting residents cannot “hold the shelter responsible for everything that goes on in that neighbourhood.”

Last month, residents near Grace Church spoke against the operation of a shelter in January. They said last year’s bridge shelter program, which was housed at the church for six months, drew crime and drug use to the area.

“I think our faith is lost,” said Kathleen Watson, a resident who spoke at the Nov. 25 council meeting. “I don’t want it in my neighbourhood at all.”

HFFS director Rob Thiessen has said on numerous occasions that the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for substance use and that anyone doing drugs in the area was not a shelter client.

Still, council voted last summer to refuse a permit for the bridge shelter this fall and winter, leaving HFFS scrambling to revive the cold/wet weather mat program. Under that model, the shelter rotates between churches and clients are brought in and out by bus, which should alleviate many of the concerns raised by residents, Thiessen said.

Port Coquitlam is the last council to approve the program. The December shelter is being held at Coquitlam Alliance Church; in February, it will be housed at Coquitlam’s Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship and, in March, at St. Andrew’s Church in Port Moody.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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