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Canyon Street building eyed for homeless shelter

Canyon Street building eyed for homeless shelter; petition calls for more discussion first
The Town of Creston is looking at the possibility of using a downtown building for a permanent shelter for the unhoused.

The Town of Creston is looking at the possibility of using a downtown building for a permanent shelter for the unhoused.

At the Creston Town Council’s regular meeting March 12, Council voted to work with B.C. Housing towards the proposal, with the building at 1130 Canyon Street as a possibility.

The proposal has raised concerns among the local business community and residents about the potential impacts on the downtown area’s “economic health, safety, and character,” according to a petition circulated by the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce, which is calling on more discussion before the location is finalized.

According to the agenda from the Council meeting of March 12, with the growing population of unhoused individuals in Creston, BC Housing has offered to collaborate with the Town of Creston and can allocate funding for a permanent shelter.

“In order to move forward, BC Housing requires a location for the shelter and an organization that can operate the shelter.”

“The population of unhoused individuals in Creston has visibly grown in recent years,” according to the Town report. “In 2023, a number of unhoused individuals set up a tent camp at the Trinity United Church (TUC) for shelter.

“As a result of the tent encampment, the TUC worked to open a temporary shelter (The Den) for unhoused individuals in the community to provide protection from the cold and access to better amenities. The shelter opened in January, 2024, and is funded by BC Housing and community donations. It will close on March 31, as the Creston Zoning Bylaw only allows for “Emergency Accommodation (temporary use), not a permanent or long-term facility.

“After March 31, a number of individuals (five or more) will be displaced until a more lasting solution is in place,” reads the Town report.

“The Den was set up under the umbrella of the TUC,” reads the report, included in the Town of Creston meeting agenda. “Since then, a non-profit organization has been formed called The Creston Valley Den Society (CVDS). CVDS members and staff at The Den have expressed an interest in being the operators of a permanent shelter in Creston, and have an existing relationship with the unhoused community in Creston.”

Criteria for a suitable shelter location include:

• Proximity to Services — Near healthcare facilities, food, banks, downtown core, public transportation, social services.

• Safety — Well-lit areas, mixed-use neighbourhoods, close to police

• Accessibility — Accessible by public transport, close to major roads and highways, and accessible facilities

• Zoning Regulations — Compliant with local zoning, laws and regulations (will require spot zoning in Creston)

• Community impact — Locations with community support and involvement

“With these criteria in mind, Council may wish to consider the building at 1130 Canyon Street for a permanent shelter for the unhoused,” the Town staff report to Council reads, as the building and location meet those criteria.

However, the petition in circulation from the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce says members of the business community and residents believe “that the proposed location on Main Street may not serve the best interests of all parties involved, including the homeless population, local businesses, and the broader community.

“We understand and recognize the importance of providing support and resources to our community members experiencing homelessness,” reads the petition.

“We respectfully oppose the selection of the downtown business core as the location for the new homeless shelter. Our opposition is not to the existence of a shelter or to providing aid to those in need but specifically to the proposed location, which we believe could adversely affect the economic vitality and safety of our downtown area and community.”

The petition calls for the Creston Town Council to reject any proposed location in the downtown core for the homeless shelter. It is also urging Council “to consider alternative solutions for addressing homelessness that takes into account the needs of all community members, including those experiencing homelessness, local businesses, residents, and tourists.”

It also calls for Council to explore other locations for the shelter that would be more suitable for its intended purpose without imposing the same potential challenges to the downtown business district, and to engage in a transparent and inclusive dialogue with stakeholders, including business owners, social service providers, first responders, residents, and individuals experiencing homelessness, to find a consensus on the most appropriate and effective location for the shelter.

“We believe that by working together, we can find a solution that addresses the needs of our community’s most vulnerable members while also preserving the economic and social well-being of our downtown area,” the petition concludes. “We look forward to a constructive discussion and to finding a path forward that reflects the compassion, resilience, and community spirit of Creston.”

Barry Coulter

About the Author: Barry Coulter

Barry Coulter had been Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman since 1998.
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