City to engage community in homeless project

The city wants to hold a community meeting to allay any uneasiness over a proposed Sobering Assessment Centre for the city’s homeless

The city wants to hold a community meeting to allay any uneasiness over a proposed Sobering Assessment Centre for the city’s homeless.

Elle Brovold, the city’s facilities and supply management property manager, said concerns were raised shortly after it was made public that the city had swapped its property on Dogwood Street next to the fire hall with Discovery Chiropractic’s land at 1180 Fir Street. As part of that agreement, the city is expected to enter into a Licence of Occupation agreement with Campbell River Family Services in order to establish a Sobering Assessment Centre on the Fir Street property.

“Following the release of this information, the city was contacted by several businesses located near the proposed site of the Sobering Assessment Centre with concerns regarding the establishment of such a facility,” Brovold wrote in a report to council. “The purpose of the public engagement would be to educate the community on how this type of facility would function and to hear potential concerns/impacts with respect to the establishment of this facility at 1180 First Street.”

Paul Mason, a program co-ordinator with Family Services, told council last June that the Sobering Assessment Centre, which is not the same as a shelter, would serve to assess clients and get them in to an interim bed until they’re fit to go into the Evergreen Shelter, which requires clients to be clean and sober.

Mason at that time said the goal would be to have the Sobering Assessment Centre open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and it would “provide a valuable link between the homeless and community service providers.”

Brovold wrote in her report that while the city doesn’t foresee any problems with such a facility, there are conditions the city can impose to make the facility more attractive.

“While staff feel that the Sobering Assessment Centre is not likely to attract abnormal users to the area beyond anything that exists currently, there may be some conditions that could be incorporated into the Licence of Occupation agreement that would allow the city additional site control, i.e. requirement for the installation of additional lighting, establish restricted operation hours, etc.,” Brovold wrote.

She added that once the city identifies the concerns associated with the centre, through community engagement, the city may also be able to reduce the neighbourhood impact by incorporating Crime Prevention through Environmental Design elements on the property.

Mason, during his presentation to council last year, said the centre would be contained and landscaped to make it look aesthetically pleasing.

“What we have will be enclosed,” he said. “I think a facility like this, available to the homeless, they will use it respectfully as they showed with the extreme weather shelter. They take care of it when there’s a sense of ownership.”

Council, at its Tuesday meeting which was held after the Mirror went to press, was expected to consider a list of public engagement options that included a neighbourhood meeting, a town hall meeting, a community open house or online engagement.

City staff were recommending a town hall meeting which would be an open invitation to the entire community. According to city staff, a town hall meeting would be more formal than a community open house and engage more people than a neighbourhood meeting which would only include property owners and tenants within a 100 metre or 200 metre radius of the proposed Sobering Assessment Centre.