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Homeless shelter may set up beside fire hall

Campbell River city staff are recommending council go ahead with setting up a mobile shelter near the fire hall

With the clock ticking on setting up an extreme weather shelter for the city’s homeless, city staff are recommending council go ahead with setting up a mobile shelter near the fire hall.

Radiant Life Church Pastor Art Van Holst asked council two weeks ago for permission to set up the shelter – a self-contained unit built from a steel shipping container – next to the downtown fire hall and nearby the church.

Kevin Brooks, the city’s senior planner, said staff looked at 10 different downtown locations but agreed that the trailer could be legally placed on the city-owned lot at 1241 Dogwood Street next to the fire station.

“The proposed use is consistent with the Campbell River zoning bylaw, the OCP (Official Community Plan) and the affordable housing strategy,” Brooks said in his report to council.

However, Brooks said there is the concern over aesthetics and bringing the homeless into an area they’re not familiar with.

“Shelters of this nature will have both real and perceived impacts on the surrounding community,” Brooks said. “Siting an extreme weather shelter at any location will obviously attract the homeless population and therefore introduces these individuals into an area where they may have not frequented. This may result in real or perceived behaviours that surrounding property owners have issue with.”

The closest neighbour, the fire hall, is supportive of having the shelter next door.

City staff spoke to Fire Chief Ian Baikie who said that having site attendants trained in first aid would be an asset.

“He also commented that having trained people providing information to the BCAS (B.C. Ambulance Service) dispatch staff regarding the medical needs of these (homeless) individuals may provide more appropriate resources being dispatched to medical incidents,” Brooks said.

The RCMP, however, had a number of concerns.

Police Inspector Lyle Gelinas identified issues surrounding the impact on adjacent businesses; how the site attendant will address individuals who show up at the shelter after the 7 p.m. opening time; how one person staffing the shelter will deal with potentially violent situations; and that having just one person on site from 12 p.m. until 7 a.m. may not be safe.

Brooks said while Gelinas is supportive of an extreme weather shelter, he wants more information on how the Radiant Life Church plans to address those issues before the shelter opens. Under BC Housing rules, the shelter must be opened by November 1. The shelter can accommodate up to 16 people, with two people per room which comes with heat and electricity. The unit has a shared bathroom.