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Report on Sixth Street supportive housing project coming to New West council

Uptown New West project would house folks who involved in daytime employment, educational or occupational therapy programs
Update coming: New West council will receive a report at its May 29 meeting about a supportive housing project. photo Theresa McManus

New Westminster city council will receive an update about plans for a new supportive housing project in the uptown at Monday’s meeting.

At its May 8 meeting, council received a report about a preliminary application from the Lower Mainland Purpose Society, which is proposing to create up to 30 beds at 422 Sixth St. for people who are or are at risk of or are experiencing homelessness. The proposal is to allow supportive housing to be located in the top two floors of the existing four-storey commercial building, with 24/7 staff support and catering services provided on-site.

Council directed staff to work with the applicant to prepare a rezoning bylaw for the subject property that would be suitable for consideration of first, second and third readings. Having presented the preliminary to report, staff embarked on city-led consultation via the Be Heard New West.

Because a rezoning is required to be in place by July 1, 2023 in order for the Purpose Society to receive a $5.35-million federal investment for the housing project, staff recommended an expedited timeline that does not include a public hearing.

According to staff, a housing needs report indicates there will be a need for 358 new supportive housing beds between 2021 and 2031.

A copy of the staff report being presented at the May 29 city council meeting is not yet available online.

The May 8 staff report stated the existing zoning permits housing units above the ground floor, but because of the shared facilities and support services, the use is considered “supportive housing” – something that’s not permitted under the current zoning, said the report.

A flyer titled Keep Our Community Safe – Say No to the Proposed Homeless Shelter at 422 Sixth St. has been posted on some properties in the area around the subject site.

“It will negatively affect our neighbourhood businesses, restaurants, hair salons, along with our residents,” said the notice. ”And you can be sure locals will not feel safe walking this block of Sixth Street.”

The flyer urges people to complete the online survey on Be Heard New West, sign up to speak or attend the May 29 council meeting, or email their concerns to council.

Lynda Fletcher-Gordon, acting executive director of the Lower Mainland Purpose Society, said the flyer is “reckless, slanderous and hate mongering.” In a letter to the Record, she said the flyer incorrectly describes the proposal as “a low-barrier nightly shelter” but it’s not a shelter.

“This new housing will house folks who are willing to be involved in an employment, educational or occupational therapy program during the day. Residents must also be willing to contribute to the well-being of the other residents and care for the space,” she wrote. “If anyone wants to hear more about this project, they can call Purpose, and I will be more than happy to describe the project in more detail. The Purpose telephone number is 604-526-2522.”

Fletcher-Gordon said people need to have an open mind until they have all of the information and details about a proposal and they fully understand what is being proposed.

“What is even more concerning about this flyer than the blatant errors in describing the project is the hateful approach that is taken against the project,” she wrote. “Publicly slandering any organization or the people who staff it is unacceptable. Hateful remarks and the villainization of the folks who are homeless is divisive and, in my opinion, does not represent the opinions of most of the good people of New Westminster.”

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