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Courtenay council's attitude softens twoward Pidcock shelter

After learning what the Salvation Army is prepared to do to address the concerns of people living near its shelter on Pidcock Avenue, Courtenay council moved a bylaw forward this week that would allow 24-7 operations.

Council had postponed third reading of the zoning amendment bylaw that would allow the shelter at 632 Pidcock Ave. to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the Sept. 6 council meeting to allow consideration of a Good Neighbour Agreement between the Salvation Army and the city after hearing from concerns from nearby residents at a public hearing.

"I'm fully committed to the need for extended hours for the existing shelter and how vital it is we do that before the rainy season comes, but it was hard not to be moved by the concerns expressed by elderly residents who came forward at our last meeting," said Coun. Doug Hillian. "I was somewhat concerned by their perception that concerns they had raised in the past had not been followed up on."

The Salvation Army is proposing a Good Neighbour Agreement between itself and the city which details how the Salvation Army will manage its operations and work with the neighbourhood to address issues such as noise disorder, any criminal activity involving the operations and cleanliness and how the Salvation Army will communicate with the city and with its neighbours, explained Peter Crawford, Courtenay's director of planning services.

"They're proposing to sign that to demonstrate more than just words," he said.

This agreement, which is not legally binding, would have to be signed before fourth reading of the bylaw, noted Crawford.

Coun. Jon Ambler was pleased to see a plan with specific details to address concerns in the area, and he said the Good Neighbour Agreement gave him "great optimism."

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard was ready to move forward with third reading approval.

"We are in a place that going forward with this rezoning doesn't guarantee there will be 24-7; it guarantees that where there is the will and the heart, there will be an opportunity for compassion," she said. "It will also be an opportunity for the province to also kick in and help out with support, a Band-Aid approach to dealing with the homeless in the interim until we get our act together and build a purpose-built shelter.

"It'll also provide opportunities that don't even exist now to deal with some of the issues that were raised. People have to line up to go in at a certain hour; if they can soften the opening and closing of the hours somewhat, it will alleviate some of the issues in the neighourhood. I can't even begin to anticipate all the benefits that would come from this. It's just simply removing barriers."

Leonard also noted the Good Neighbour Agreement is based on agreements instituted by the Salvation Army in other communities.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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