NELSON: PoCo needs to take its turn

Tri-City News
Tri-City News' contributor Jim Nelson.
— image credit: tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Remember when Port Coquitlam city workers dumped peat moss in an area where a homeless man was known to camp?

The media and public savaged the city for weeks and PoCo’s reputation for empathy for the homeless was set back 20 years.

It was an embarrassing period for PoCo council. One would think they had learned a lesson.

Yet there was council last Monday, a scant six months later, in tundra- like weather, voting on whether to withdraw permission for PoCo to take its turn in the Tri-Cities’ homeless shelter rotation.

It would be council’s third flip flop on this issue.

In 30-degree July, council bowed to neighbourhood concerns and revoked permission for the bridge shelter at Grace Church on Kingsway Avenue. That had operated as a six-month shelter since 2007, mostly because there are more homeless in this neighbourhood than in Coquitlam and Port Moody combined.

While waiting for the planned 2015 completion of a permanent homeless shelter in Coquitlam, the Hope for Freedom Society and other service organizations have brokered a plan for the sheltering of the Tri-City’s homeless. Each city will take turns housing the homeless in local churches.

In November, it was Calvary Baptist in Coquitlam. In December, it’s Coquitlam Alliance Church. In February, Coquitlam’s Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship will take a turn, and in March, it’s St. Andrews in Port Moody.

That leaves January. Hello, PoCo, with most of the Tri-Cities’  homeless, it’s time to step up.

So in November, PoCo council did step up, partially revoking its July revoking, re- establishing a shelter at Grace Church just for January. The neighbourhood responded angrily, having thought council’s July vote had squelched the housing the homeless thing in their neighbourhood for good.

So, caught in a nexus of NIMBYism, PoCo will vote again Monday, on whether to revoke their partial revoking of their July revoking of permission.

Oh, it’s complicated to be sure. And there are legitimate neighbourhood concerns.

But it’s also simple. If PoCo council votes against PoCo’s January shelter, councillors are saying, “Let ’em eat cake” — but only in Port Moody and Coquitlam shelters.

Just six months after the peat moss incident, PoCo is again in danger of showing an Abbotsford-like insensitivity to the homeless, and a very short political memory.


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