Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coquitlam Homeless Shelter Public Hearing

The public hearing wrapped up a little after midnight, and around 1230 AM this morning, Coquitlam council gave 2nd, 3rd and 4th readings to OCP and Zoning amendments in support of the proposed homeless shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave.
The public hearing was very emotional, many local residents came forward with their concerns for increased crime and activity in their otherwise quiet residential neighbourhood. Others expressed their concern for the well-being of those less fortunate in our community and their feeling of obligation to help those who are down on their luck. Of course, both sides in this discussion (debate ? argument ?) have merit, but at the end of the day, Coquitlam, I believe , made the right choice. It's so unfortunate that these conversations can get so ugly at times, but, strong emotions generally lead to heated debate !
The Gordon Ave location (behind the Superstore complex off Westwood and Lougheed) is an area where several homeless people currently congregate, and is in close proximity to services including health care, transit, police services, etc. I have confidence that the city staff in Coquitlam with guidance and support of council, will ensure that no resident feels unsafe in their own home and will work to alleviate the concerns of residents.
A question was asked last night, generally, 'What about Port Moody and Port Coquitlam ?' and specifically someone asked me 'What is Port Moody doing to contribute ?'
Its important to remember - Health Care , and Homelessness, are NOT the mandate of municipal government, but of the province. The City of Coquitlam made it very clear - they are not BUILDING or OPERATING this shelter, but made the same commitment that all three of the tri-cities made to this process : To provide zoning and relief of taxes, fees, and charges for a provincial facility if appropriate land could be found for the shelter. Port Moody also made this commitment, as did Port Coquitlam - however, Coquitlam identified this location and started conversations with the ministry / BC housing, and this project has moved forward over the past couple of years, in relative isolation, and not with any consultation from Port Moody (other than our continued involvement with the Homelessness task force). To the best of my knowledge, Coquitlam has never asked for any assistance from Port Moody, other than their required notification of the OCP amendment which we, and PoCo , agreed with.
Port Moody council has made it very clear via our strategic plan that we will vigorously resist downloading from senior governments.
Zoning and land use are the domain of municipal government - health care, addiction treatment, affordable housing are NOT, and, wading into those areas when municipal budgets are not even sustainable with the responsibilities we already have, would be irresponsible management of municipal tax dollars.
SO - congratulations to Coquitlam council and staff for identifying the property and for taking the steps necessary for the provincial ministry to step up to its obligation, and enduring a divisive and combative process and ensuring , as I know they will, that all residents opinions and concerns are respected moving forward. And kudos to all members of council for respectfully listening to the community and keeping the democratic process working, even if it meant working until 1am !