Newly built beds on the bottom floor of Haven in the Hollow. Their use awaits the decision of district council to increase the zoning capacity of the building from 31 to 71 people. / Patrick Penner Photo

Newly built beds on the bottom floor of Haven in the Hollow. Their use awaits the decision of district council to increase the zoning capacity of the building from 31 to 71 people. / Patrick Penner Photo

Mission service workers, property owners at odds over increasing shelter space for homeless

Public hearing over bylaw amendment to increase Haven in the Hollow’s capacity by 40 held on July 27

Moving forward on Mission’s homelessness crisis saw two opposing viewpoints clash in a public hearing on July 27 – local property owners versus those in the social service field.

The hearing took input over a proposal to change a zoning-bylaw amendment to increase the maximum capacity of shelter beds from 31 to 71 at Haven in the Hollow. In total, there were 28 letters of support, with 15 voices opposed.

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 fear the issues will grow worse with more space in the shelter.

“Do we tax payers have no rights?” reads one letter in opposition. “Shame on you for even considering this. Put this crime-ridden sanctuary in your neighbourhood if you believe that this is a good idea,” reads another.

Richard Quinlan, an opponent of the amendment who lives near the shelter, said he was homeless when he was 14 and used to sympathize, but now his “heart has hardened.”

“This is an out of control issue now,” Quinlan said. “How is that going to get better by doubling the amount of beds?”

For workers in the social-services field, the very-visible issues associated with homelessness are actually exacerbated by the lack of shelter space, which forces the homeless population into desperation.

“The heart of the problem is that homelessness isn’t pretty and that many don’t want it in their backyard,” said Michelle Puffer, executive director of Mission Community Services (MCS). “Unfortunately, not giving shelter space actually makes the problem worse, as then individuals have no choice … We leave them with nowhere to go.”

The lack of shelter space since council stated a commitment to homelessness in 2018, is “embarrassing,” said Lisa Kelly, team chair of Mission Outreach Services.

She said the community has plenty of committed social service workers in areas ranging from harm reduction to mental health to addiction – but the most glaring issue is space not support.

“We almost have more outreach workers than we do shelter beds,” Kelly said. “You can’t have a conversation around health and safety when you are getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, you haven’t had any sleep, you don’t want to see a doctor because you’re filthy, you can’t shower and you can’t wash your clothes.”

Mission’s homeless population has nearly tripled since the last count in 2017. 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.

The District of Mission’s 2020-2024 Housing Needs Assessment identified the need for 170 shelter beds to house the district’s homeless people. There are currently 80 beds available, according to the assessment, and shelters turned away 4,020 people from 2018 to 2019 due to being at capacity.

The number of available beds in Mission was recently reduced by 44 after closure of The Stage, which was being leased and used as a temporary shelter to allow for social distancing during COVID-19 pandemic.

Property owners in opposition were supported by Mission MP Brad Vis, who wrote a letter and signed his landlord’s petition against the amendment. Social service providers were supported by Maple Ridge MLA Bob D’Eith, five non-profit organizations (four local) and two churches. Mission businesses fell on both sides.

Vis wrote that while he generally supports the shelter, MCS did “not pro-actively communicate their intention to double the size.”

“My office did not receive a neighbourhood plan to address the public safety concerns of the tenants … and the impact the expansion could have on our respective services and small businesses,” Vis said. “I am perplexed my input was not formally sought prior to the public hearing.”

But Mission Community Service staff reached out to Vis multiple times prior to the public hearing, and invited him to view the new shelter space, according to Puffer. The Record reached out to Vis for further comment, but did not receive a response.

“We were disappointed by [his] statement,” she wrote in an email. “The increase in shelter beds would also allow us to increase our staffing model and have staff that can be out in the neighbourhood assisting and encouraging people back to the shelter.

“We have been working on a neighbourhood plan which will see a neighbourhood steering committee formed which will meet regularly to review what’s happening in the area. We would certainly appreciate having MP Vis or one of his staff involved with that.”

The capacity limit in the building’s zoning – the reason why a public hearing was held in the first place– is “very unusual,” said Puffer, who said the limit was already being exceeded from November through March when the building operates as an Extreme Weather Response shelter.

She said MCS staff are removing nearby graffiti and have installed fences around the facility to isolate adjacent neighbourhoods.

Tyler Weatherup, manager of housing and outreach at MCS said the shelter is not just increasing capacity, but has also acquired additional funding and almost doubled their staff with 18 new hires.

“Right now, with only have 27 beds, we experience a lot of turn-aways,” said Weatherup. “Unfortunately, in 10 years of doing this, I’ve seen some pretty ugly outcomes after turning somebody away.

“It’s not something we like to do and I think it’s probably the toughest part of any shelter worker’s job, telling someone to go and spend the night outside.”

Tyler Weatherup, manager of housing and outreach at Mission Community Services, standing near the new front of the recently renovated building. Patrick Penner / Mission Record.

HomelessnessMission

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

An opossum (not the one in picture) at Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center in Abbotsford is included in an episode of CBC TV’s The Nature of Things on Jan. 29. (Submitted photo)
Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center in Abbotsford part of CBC TV program on wind

The Nature of Things episode includes opossum that uses scent to find a meal

Abbotsford Police is investigating after bullet casings were found following a shots fired call at the intersection of Purcell Avenue and Wells Gray Avenue on Tuesday night. (File photo)
Bullet casings found after shots-fired call in Abbotsford on Tuesday

Abbotsford Police Department seeking witnesses and CCTV footage following shooting

A Chilliwack driver’s vehicle was impounded for seven days after an excessive speeding violation. (RCMP photo)
RCMP catch Chilliwack driver doing 60 km/h over posted speed limit

The motorist was hit with a big ticket and a seven day vehicle impoundment

UFV assistant kinesiology professor Dr. Iris Lesser exercises along Chilliwack's Vedder Rotary Trail with her daughter Kaia. (UFV photo)
UFV study finds women with reduced physical activity had more mental health struggles during COVID pandemic

The study suggested women suffered more than men as gyms, parks and playgrounds shut down

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Most Read