No tax break for Haven

Concerns raised about first-stage housing facility

For the first time in four years, the building which houses Haven in the Hallow on Logan Avenue will not be given a property tax exemption, in a move by Mission council to compel service providers clean up around the area.

The decision represents a value of $8,845.

Haven in the Hallow, located at 32646 Logan Ave., is a first stage housing facility, operated by Mission Community Services Society, that has been operating since 2009. When it welcomed the first group of clients, it had 15 beds in the men’s dorm, five beds in the women’s dorm and a family room. Today, the Mission Community Services Food Centre is also located in the building.

It’s the building in town on which Mayor Ted Adlem says he gets the most calls, relating a story about a nine-year-old girl who brought her mom a needle while they stopped at a nearby gas station to fill up.

Adlem also expressed some of his personal experiences in the area, such as when he saw a woman changing her clothes across the street while he was attending an event at the Legion, and when he was driving by this past weekend and noticed two men around the building. One was asleep in a sleeping bag.

“He’s about 30 feet away from a bed,” exclaimed Adlem. “Give me a break. That’s not acceptable.”

It’s also not acceptable that Legion members, made up of primarily elderly citizens, don’t feel safe at their favourite spot, he added.

“I’ve worked in this area for a long time and been successful helping a lot of people emerge out of broken lifestyles,” said Coun. Dave Hensman, who doesn’t believe the facility is actually helping its clients. “Those types of facilities don’t elevate people to a new life …  they’re stagnating and getting worse.”

Adlem says the district has spoken to MCS about the problems, but isn’t satisfied with the response.

“They say they’re not doing anything wrong, but if that business wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have these problems,” noted Adlem.”They need to control it.”

Sanjay Gulati, who recently took the helm at MCS as the executive director, says some people perceive the shelter as a problem because of other people in the area.

“We’re also getting blamed for people there who aren’t our clients,” he suggested. “Many people who don’t use our premise are homeless and are in the area.”

The homeless around the area is beyond MCS control, he added.

Gulati says staff are open to meeting with neighbours about any concerns, and noted the district has not provided any specific recommendations or conditions for his organization to work towards.

Mission Mounties received 92 calls for service from Haven in the Hallow over the last 12 months, not including calls from other addresses related to the first stage housing facility, said Mission RCMP Sgt. Shaun Wright.

“It’s a large consumer of police resources,” stated Wright, noting most of the time officers are dealing with cases of intoxication, drug use, Mental Health Act, and violence.

Gulati will be meeting with the mayor next week to discuss the cut.

“The homeless won’t go away,” said Gulati. “They’re part of the community too and we have to work together.”