Evergreen Road residents want no part of a low-barrier shelter for homeless people in their neighbourhood.
“Just relocate it downtown and the problem is solved!” said one man who was applauded by fellow neighbours.
Monday’s meeting wasn’t well attended – about 20 people total – but it was certainly contentious as just over a dozen residents came to voice their opposition. In a nutshell, they don’t want people who are high on drugs or drunk to use the Salvation Army’s shelter on Evergreen.
“I already feel it’s a low barrier shelter already,” said neighbour Abby Morris who documents the needles and other drug paraphernalia she finds in her yard. “We don’t need to deal with this in our neighbourhood. Someone is going to get hurt!”
The 22-bed shelter on Evergreen is categorized as “high barrier” meaning that visitors must be sober and not under the influence of drugs when they enter each night.
But that policy leaves some people outdoors. This past fall and winter, a trial project took place in downtown Campbell River utilizing a portable 16-bed shelter that was set up beside the #1 firehall.
It was classified as “low barrier” and operations were managed by members of the Radiant Life Community Church – located across the street – who worked in conjunction with Campbell River Family Services and the Homelessness Coalition.
The shelter proved to be quite successful and received a lot of community and business support, as well as the approval of the RCMP who noted a drastic reduction in calls for service.
However, the pilot project is over and that shelter is gone, meaning there’s no low-barrier shelter available.
That led to Monday’s meeting spearheaded by the Salvation Army and their supporters on the Homelessness Coalition. The goal was to have a forum to see what neighbours envisioned for the needs of the homeless, but it got off to a rocky start.
The Salvation Army and the Homelessness Coalition split the cost to hire a consulting firm to engage the public, but consultants were the last people the residents wanted to hear from.
“Why are you asking us about the needs of the homeless? We’re not the experts,” said another man.
While a woman added, “Yes, something needs to be done, but I think we all agree it should be located downtown.”
During a meeting in January, the needs of the homeless were specifically addressed by a wide variety of service providers.
The consensus of the group was the need for, “An easily-accessed minimal-barrier shelter operating 24/7 under a harm reduction model, offering a spectrum of services on-site, including sobering assessment.”
And that led to the Salvation Army being asked to reclassify its Evergreen shelter to make it low barrier.
“We would like to be part of the solution…our partner, BC Housing, is supportive of the reclassification,” said Salvation Army Capt. Gordon Taylor in a news release that appeared in last Wednesday’s Mirror.
However, at Monday’s meeting, Sean Junglas of the Salvation Army said BC Housing was invited, but “wouldn’t come.” He also tried to appease the agitated residents by saying that a decision has not been made and their concerns will be noted.
He also sided with them in one respect and suggested the shelter could one day be moved.
“It’s not an ideal location for a shelter facility,” he admitted of the Evergreen location.
In the end, the residents refused to take part in a forum. Rather they wanted their objections noted and passed along to the deciding authorities.
Junglas promised to do that.
“I know you’re upset, frustrated and very concerned…I also want to provide services our community needs,” he said.
A second meeting with the consulting group was held Tuesday with local service providers. Details were not available at press time.