In not having been consulted on the selection of 341 and 361 Fraser Ave. for a proposed shelter, neighbours of the properties say a critical step was missed.
A rezoning process for the city-owned properties is underway to accommodate a 25-bed shelter with services planned by BC Housing. A public hearing is scheduled for the July 24 evening council meeting.
BC Housing’s plans and the rezoning request became public at the city’s June 19 development and planning meeting. However, days prior, representatives of the city approached neighbours of the Fraser Avenue properties to inform them of the plans.
A June 15 letter given to neighbouring residents from the City of Salmon Arm, BC Housing and the Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap-Revelstoke (which would manage the shelter), explains the shelter would be open by winter 2023, providing a needed replacement for the previous temporary shelter at the Downtown Activity Centre. The letter explains the shelter would:
• reduce the likelihood of new encampments and camping in public spaces;
• create dignity and quality of life for vulnerable people, connecting them with the necessary services;
• reduce disruptive behaviours (late night noise, fires) through on-site services; and
• reduce impacts on policing and health services.
Jack Foulkes, president of a nearby strata, and Ted Crouch, a resident of the same strata, recognize the need in the city for a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, but said they were caught off guard when they were informed of the chosen site.
“I think in the absence of us being brought in as stakeholders, to be part of this, they missed a critical step, and we’re going to be asking for the rezoning as proposed to be reconsidered,” said Crouch.
The strata held its own meeting on June 19 to generate a consensus on the chosen location. From that, numerous concerns were raised, not just about the location, but also about the process, the operation of the shelter, and the impact it would have on neighbourhood property values and neighbours themselves. A report from the meeting explains the majority of residents in the neighbourhood are seniors, most living alone, “with a high preponderance of female persons.”
“Any rezoning of these properties to allow an unhoused persons shelter creates a huge anxiety in many of these people,” reads the report.
“This feeling is justified by the dramatic increase in theft, fire calls and disturbance calls since the unhoused persons camp was relocated adjacent to the proposed property considered for rezoning.”
The strata questions, should the rezoning be approved, will the city commit to removing the tent encampment?
Also, the strata asks what other sites were considered by the city for the shelter, and if the shelter’s capacity might be increased.
Crouch urges authorities and organizations involved with the shelter to address residents’ questions and concerns, and “proactively engage with the community to provide information, clarify misconceptions and develop mitigation strategies to select a different location.”
“Open communication, transparency and collaboration between the shelter operators, residents and local authorities are essential, and local authorities are essential to address negative impacts and foster a sense of understanding and cooperation within the neighbourhood,” said Crouch.
BC Housing will host an open house about its plans for the shelter from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., July 12, at the First Community Hall (First United Church), 450 Okanagan Ave. SE.
Following the open house, a moderated question and answer period will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.