Business, search and rescue centre concerned about shelter

Temporary facility on Riverside Road to open Dec. 21

City crews work on the lot where the 40-bed temporary shelter will be built

Next to the temporary homeless shelter being built on Riverside Road is the Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue centre, and a two-storey home beside a small welding shop.

Rescue organization members are concerned that the shelter may negatively affect their operations, and the man next door is worried it will hurt his business.

The 40-bed temporary shelter, which will be assembled out of construction-type trailers, is set to open on Dec. 21. The $1.2-million project low-barrier, operated by Lookout Emergency Aid Society and jointly funded by the city and the province, will include a drop-in centre and free meals during the day. It will shut down at the end of April, and then reopen for the 2016-17 winter.

Ruben Weiss rents the house across the street from the shelter site and, along with his father, operates the welding shop beside his home. He says he’s had issues with theft from his yard in the past, and is afraid the shelter will attract people who might steal his equipment.

The city brought a letter to his door two days before the shelter was announced, but Weiss said that wasn’t enough time. He and his dad have operated a commercial greenhouse business for six years. They do most of their work on-site at farms, but they store plenty of expensive and hard-to-replace equipment at the shop.

“Someone should have come and talked to me, but they didn’t do that,” he said. “I sympathize with homeless people…but how long do I have to secure my property?…Anything that’s not nailed down will be taken.”

Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue operates at the centre just next door to the shelter site, and president Lee Holeczek is concerned the shelter may cause security concerns when members come in for rescue calls at odd hours.

“We have some concerns regarding security and safety of our members and volunteers,” Holeczek said.

He’d like to see the city fund improvements to security features like lighting, fences and locks at the search and rescue centre, and consider cameras or motion sensors.

City staff said they’ll consider his requests, and the shelter is already set to have sturdy fencing, ample lighting and 24-hour supervision.

Mayor Henry Braun said he understands concerns, but stressed public approval isn’t required for temporary shelters because they’re currently allowed in all types of land zoning.

“I think people don’t understand this. There’s a lot of land uses that can take place under bylaws that we don’t have to [bring] to another public hearing,” said Braun.

Council heard public comment about the shelter lot on Dec. 7, but the only issues up for debate were how close the building could be to a stream and what kind of parking surface will be used.

Allan Asaph from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and one member of the public spoke in favour of the shelter.

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