By Wawmeesh G. Hamilton - Alberni Valley News
Published: March 14, 2013 6:00 AM
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:02 PM
The long process in reconciling the two sides in the proposed new Port Alberni Shelter Society facility issue has started. According to Mayor John Douglas, more than 80 people attended a meeting he facilitated March 7 between residents and society representatives. The meeting was an attempt to bridge the gap between the two sides, he said. Society officials are working to build a new shelter across the street from the existing one on a swath of land owned by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
More than 150 residents in the area have outlined concerns dealing with drug use, theft and property invasion which they say stems from a number of shelter residents.Several issues came out at the meeting that had not been discussed before, Douglas said. Better neighbourhood lighting and working with shelter officials on administrative issues and curfew times were among those mentioned, he related.
“Some people were happy, some were unhappy and there were others in between.” The meeting was productive and another step forward in the issue, society official Myron Jespersen said. “We’ve gone from expressing concerns to having a discussion and trying to work through the issues,” he said. There are other variables to consider with respect to changing curfew times, Jespersen said. “They only work to keep people out and not in. And do people really want that when someone shows up and has to stay outside?”
The meeting was a precursor to a formal community consultation meeting being held on Thursday, March 14 from 3-8 p.m. at the Best Western Barclay Hotel. The event will provide an opportunity for the public to review site plans, floor plans and elevations for the proposed replacement facility, Jespersen said. There will also be an opportunity for people to peruse and give input to the shelter’s good neighbour agreement, a document that sets out how neighbours and the shelter will resolve issues between them. “Some of the things that have been discussed, those are exactly the kind of issues that can be resolved through a good neighbour agreement,” Jespersen said.