Port Coquitlam residents can comment on shelter
Port Coquitlam residents will get an opportunity to weigh in on a temporary use permit that would see a homeless shelter operate out of Grace Church for one month next winter.
If that permit is approved, Grace would be one of six Tri-Cities churches participating in the cold/wet weather mat program, which rotates between locations every 30 days during the coldest months of the year.
In the past, locating a temporary shelter at the Kingsway Avenue location had been met with opposition from residents in the area. But because the program operated last year without incident, Coun. Mike Forrest, chair of PoCo's smart growth committee, said he does not expect the issue to be as contentious as it has been in recent years.
"Last year, we went through it without any issues — certainly nothing of consequence," he said. "We had the impression that it was successful and we could go ahead with it again."
Laura Lee Richard, the city's director of development services, concurred with Forrest. She said that many of the issues coming from the neighbourhood were addressed last year and that the new model, which has clients bused to and from the shelter, alleviated many concerns.
"We went through the major public input opportunity last year and set up all of the processes that are now in place," Richard said. "We put all that in place and it was fairly effective."
She also noted that the city has facilitated meetings between the Hope For Freedom Society, which operates the shelter, and neighbourhood residents.
But Rob Thiessen, director of the society, said he does not share the city's optimism that the process will run smoothly.
There is still a lot of opposition to a temporary shelter at Grace Church and many people do not want it in their area, he said. Thiessen added that the shelter is being unfairly blamed for problems that already existed in the neighbourhood.
"This is an area that has had some issues that are ongoing from long before we ever got there," he said. "We put up this proposal and it is a lightning rod. It is a forum for them to complain about what is going on in the neighbourhood."
He said the results of last year's shelter program were positive. A city staff report noted that 57 people — nine women and 48 men — used the Grace Church shelter when it operated in January. Of those clients, 11 transitioned into recovery housing; a total of 53 people were moved off the streets during the course of the six-month program.
The smart growth committee is authorized to make a decision on the temporary use permit without a full council vote. That means the public input process will take place at the committee level, not at a full council meeting, as was the case last year. The meeting will be held at city hall on June 19 at 5 p.m.