City promises patrols in neighbourhoods near controversial new North Shore shelter

Patrols promised near shelter

The city plans to step up patrols in the Schubert Drive area and in Westmount once a controversial new homeless shelter is built near the Halston Bridge, neighbours were told during a community forum on Wednesday.

Construction on Moira House shelter, 600 Kingston Ave., is about to get underway, with the 40-bed facility slated to open at some point next winter.

The shelter is temporary, as panelists repeated many times during Wednesday night’s virtual forum, which was organized by BC Housing. The City of Kamloops and BC Housing have agreed on a three-year lease, with an option for two more years after that.

Many of the questions asked by neighbours on Wednesday focused on community safety — specifically the shelter’s proximity to schools, parks and Rivers Trail.

Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social housing manager, said city staff are very aware of the concerns.

“As the site gets closer to being operational, the city’s community service officers — which a lot of folks might know as what they used to be called, bylaws officers — they’ll be adding foot and bike patrols along the Rivers Trail from Westmount Elementary School to Richmond Park [on Richmond Avenue] as part of their regularly scheduled patrols, and they will also add Westmount Park to their patrols,” he said.

“The city’s crime prevention unit will co-ordinate with the RCMP to put more emphasis in the area, and this could include increased patrols of adjacent residential areas.”

Mazzotta said city staff will also conduct safety assessments of the entire Westmount and Schubert Drive areas, looking for potential lighting and landscape upgrades that could deter criminal activity.

The shelter will be operated by CMHA Kamloops. The agency’s executive director, Alfred Achoba, pledged during Wednesday’s forum to have a 24-7 phone line set up for residents in the area to call with any concerns about the behaviour of shelter guests.

“We’re happy to support our community, and we’re happy to come clean up, so there will be a 24-7 dedicated number to reach the staff,” he said.

“We will have a contact number for the care team and for the neighbourhood watch, so please reach out to us. We’re happy to support even if you’re not sure — give us a call and we can brainstorm, and we’ll be there to help, as well.”

Moira House will be a temporary “workforce modular housing structure,” the forum was told, built on a temporary foundation.

Questions during Wednesday night’s forum were screened by BC Housing. On a couple of occasions, the forum’s moderator addressed concerns from some attendees that questions were planted. She said they were not.

Reporters in attendance were not allowed to ask questions during the forum and told to instead follow up with BC Housing.

The city previously used 600 Kingston Ave. as a winter snow dump, and Mazzotta speculated it could return to that use once the lease period is up.

“It was used as a snow dump previously and, at this time, we don’t have plans beyond the five years,” he said.

“Obviously, given the use previously, it could revert back to a snow dump or there could be future discussions around other uses. … That will be part of the future analysis and also looking at the bigger picture of where we are at when we get two, three, four years from now, in terms of the need for shelter and the need for permanent supportive housing and subsidized affordable rental housing in the community.”

Moira House is one of three new shelters announced last month by the city and BC Housing.

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