The Haven in the Hollow will be permitted to increase the maximum capacity of shelter beds from 31 to 71, now that Mission council has approved a zoning-bylaw amendment.
Last Tuesday night, council approved the change after discussing the Mission Community Services Society’s Community Action Plan.
The plan was presented after council requested more information after a public hearing on the matter on July 27.
At that hearing, several local property owners spoke against the change, while those in the social service field lobbied for its approval.
Property owners’ biggest concerns were crime, drug use, property damage, devaluation of nearby businesses, real estate and safety – all of which is attributed to the shelter. They feared the issues would grow worse with more space in the shelter.
Workers in the social-services field said the very-visible issues associated with homelessness are actually exacerbated by the lack of shelter space, which forces the homeless population into desperation.
The Haven, which is located at 32646 Logan Ave., will likely only run with 60-beds with 11 more available during times of extreme cold weather.
Mission Mayor Pam Alexis said Mission Community Services had done a lot of work preparing its action plan and working on a good neighbour agreement.
“The work that they have done to meet with their neighbours, certainly convinced council that they have done due diligence and that they would operate in a way that was satisfactory to the community,” she said.
She also wants council to be kept “more in the loop” with the Haven with more check ins and visits.
While the increase to a maximum of 71 beds is being called a step in the right direction, more needs to be done.
Mission’s homeless population has nearly tripled since the last count – from 63 people in 2017, to 178 in 2020. It saw the largest spike of any municipality in the entire region, and is proportionally overweight, accounting for 19 per cent of all homeless people in the Fraser Valley.
“There will be a supportive housing project coming to council, we’re hoping in October. It’s been a long struggle because we’ve had money earmarked in treasury for $15 million for I think it’s been four years,” said Alexis, adding they have found the land for the project though where that is has not been made public knowledge at this time.
“The application will be coming from BC Housing.”
Alexis said this proposal will come with more services attached because it is a supportive housing model.
While council approved the Haven expansion, the vote was not unanimous. Coun. Ken Herar voted against the project, not because of the increase, but due to the location.
After much thought, Herar said he came to the conclusion that expanding the beds is not in the best interest of the community, at its current location.
“Although I am in complete favour of increasing the beds, the location is not suitable for the current residents and businesses in the immediate area. This area is what I would consider to be a gateway to Mission from the West.”
Herar did say he applauds the efforts to clean up the area since the public hearing, but the businesses and residents have not changed their minds.
“The current location is not appealing to customers as it’s disruptive to the businesses and also residents feel somewhat held hostage in their homes unable to use their yards,” said Herar, adding that council needs to be fair to everyone.