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Salmon Arm shelter opening would allow for removal of tents from city land

Zoning bylaw amendment for BC Housing proposal going to July 24 public hearing
BC Housing is looking to construct a modular shelter at 341 and 361 Fraser Ave., near the current tent encampment by Peter Jannink Nature Park. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

The opening of a new shelter in Salmon Arm will allow for the removal of the current tent encampment near Peter Jannink Park.

At the June 26 city council meeting, first and second reading was given to a zoning amendment bylaw to rezone city-owned properties at 341 and 361 Fraser Ave., near the park and the city’s wastewater treatment facility, from M-2 Light Industrial to a new CD-20 Comprehensive Development Zone. This is to accommodate BC Housing’s plans for a new modular shelter facility for “unhoused individuals in the community.”

“BC Housing is funding and managing the construction of the shelter, while the Canadian Mental Health Association… will operate the shelter once constructed,” reads a staff report to council. “The shelter aims to provide up to 25 beds, as well as daily meals and support services.”

At the city’s June 21 Development and Planning Services Committee meeting, council received a presentation from Douglas Winter, BC Housing’s development manager for the Interior. Winter said BC Housing was looking to lease the city properties for 10 years, with an option to renew.

“We want to create a facility where we are good tenants, good neighbours…” said Winter. “So to do that, we have an experienced operator with CMHA, who has been doing this for a long time in the community.”

BC Housing wants to have the shelter open for this winter.

After Monday’s council meeting, the Observer asked Mayor Alan Harrison if, when the shelter opens, tenting would still be permitted on the city-owned properties, either by the shelter or on the adjacent property where the current tent encampment is located.

Harrison said the city does not intend to have a designated space for a tent encampment once the shelter is open.

“Presently, case law in the province does not permit local governments to move tents from public lands, unless there is an alternate housing option available,” Harrison explained in an email. “As we do not have a shelter presently, we established the encampment beside Peter Jannink Park. This enabled us to move the tents that were on the City lands behind the DAC (Downtown Activity Centre) (on the kids soccer fields), and to eliminate camping randomly on all public lands throughout the City.”

Harrison said once the shelter is open, there will be a housing option for those in tents, and the city is “hopeful that most will move to the shelter, which will provide services to help the residents.”

“For those who choose not to move to the shelter, they will have to move off of public lands,” said Harrison.

In the staff report, the city’s planning department explains the Fraser Avenue site was selected because the city has “very few land assets to choose from, and that for a shelter to be successful it needs to be close to daily needs and services for unhoused individuals, and close to a transit route.”

“This is the only site that effectively meets those criteria,” reads the report. “The site also avoids concentrating social support functions in one area of the community, and should lessen the impact that the current encampment creates.

“Based on research that BC Housing has undertaken in other communities, there is no evidence that supportive housing such as shelters reduces property values in their vicinity.”

A public hearing on the rezoning is expected to take place in council chambers during the evening portion of the July 24 council meeting.
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