With less than two weeks to go until the already extended deadline for the removal of a sleeping cabin community in Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, a new site has been named as the frontrunner for the cabins’ relocation.
On Wednesday night, Lakeside District Councillor Wayne Hill took to social media to share that Centre 70 on Days and Front looks to be the most likely next destination for the project.
Our Livable Solutions, who has spearheaded this project from the outset, has repeatedly asserted that the sleeping cabin community has to be set in a location with access to washroom and shower facilities, a communal kitchen, and meeting space, as well as being near public transportation.
In Hill’s post he says Centre 70, which also has no programming throughout the summer months, checks all those boxes.
“It has all of the attributes that I mentioned and Centre 70 does not operate any programs during the summer months,” Hill said.
“Should Council support this on May 17th, the sleeping cabins would be at Centre 70 over spring/summer and the program would be relocated by the time the arena’s fall/winter program begins.”
Hill says he was approached by Our Livable Solutions with the proposal and upon reviewing it said he was enthusiastic that the arena could be a fit.
The city councillor’s post was met with mixed reviews, with many happy to see the cabins – and the ten residents occupying them – appearing closer to finding another temporary home.
Some in the district however took issue with Hill’s post, repeating a number of the concerns that were initially brought forward when the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour was identified as the project’s ideal site.
“Most of the time homeless individuals are recovering addicts and you want to put them in an area close to 2 public schools?!” one resident wrote on Hill’s post.
“Plus numerous health care works park in the Centre 70 parking lot so your just welcoming car breakings with homeless around there.”
After four months at POH however, most of the issues brought forward by neighbours however have proven to be unfounded.
In fact, some of the staunchest critics at the start of the pilot project have admitted their concerns did not come to fruition.
Hill, who initially was not in favour of the project himself, said based on feedback from neighbours, staff and clients that the pilot at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour has been a resounding success.
He says at this point, after seeing the lack of issues that arose from the winter months in Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, there’s enough information available to quell the concerns of some of the constituents in his district.
“People follow sort of snippets of the news, I think there’s a tendency to kind of link all homelessness issues in the city together,” Hill said.
“It was very successful at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour… I think it’s more the idea that somehow something more significant in size is coming and that it’s permanent and that it’s going to change the nature of the neighbourhood… None of that is going to happen.”
The consultation stage has now begun, including discussions with the two school boards with locations in the area, people from the nearby curling club, community garden operators and the general public in the neighbourhood.
Hill says his Facebook post on Wednesday was meant to “get ahead of it” and be up front with constituents that council will almost certainly consider the location on May 17.
The location has drawn ire from some suggesting that moving it even further from the downtown centre and the majority of low income services makes no sense.
Centre 70 is, however, accessible by public transit, and according to Our Livable Solutions Executive Director Chrystal Wilson, the current residents are actually happy to move farther away from downtown.
“Our current residents have asked us to find a location further away from downtown to help them avoid negative distractions which impact their ability to move forward as they do the work to exit homelessness,” Wilson said.
“Some residents are excited about being near the community garden, being able to grow their own food has been a request we haven’t been able to fulfill at POH.”
Wilson says she and the ten residents are hopeful to see council approve the location on May 17, and if so the cabins are expected to be loaded on to a flat bed and moved the very next day.
Hill said he doesn’t anticipate there being a gap between the two locations, but the details are still being put together by city staff.
He says while Centre 70 will work as a band-aid, a permanent location needs to be found, and in general affordable housing needs to be a greater priority.
“Obviously I’d like to see a lot better solutions to some of our homelessness issues just across the board,” Hill said.
“There’s always going to be this disruption where you’re moving the cabins and moving the people and that’s not fair to anybody. I’d like to find a permanent setting for it.”
A Zoom consultation session will take place next Tuesday May 10.