Ellice shelter rezoning approved

July 26, 2008 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

At a City Council meeting that lasted until midnight a rezoning application for a homeless shelter on Ellice Street passed by a vote of 5-2. Councillors Geoff Young and Pamela Madoff voted against (the Times Colonist reports on the sometimes emotional meeting here). The shelter, located in the Burnside neighbourhood is scheduled to open in two years.

I spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting, along several others. I said that the present park is unwelcoming, dysfunctional and little-used and that no amount of landscaping or installation of teeter-totters or social engineering is going to transform it and make it welcoming and beautiful. I said the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood should look at this as an opportunity to obtain a better park; one that is not walled in on three sides and has visual interest and is safe and welcoming. And the City must honour its commitment to replace Ellice Park.

In response to concerns that the money would be better spent on supportive housing, I said that form of housing is needed but shelters are part of the solution as well. What are we supposed to do with the people who only need the shelter for a few days? Some of these people get back on their feet and never use a shelter again. They don’t need to be put on a long waiting list for supportive housing!

I also mentioned the lack of consultation, which I found disappointing but that is in the past now. We have to decide on the plan that has been presented to us. I would have loved to participate in a public open house on shelters and how to integrate them into the community before this proposal sprang forth but that never happened, and besides, would that have made the decision any easier or clearer? Or would it have set of a years-long round of hot potato among Victoria’s neighbourhoods? Is this proposal perfect? No. But how long must we wait for that perfect proposal? I mentioned a Voltaire quote brought up by APC member Aaron Welch at a recent shelter meeting: “Perfect is the enemy of good”. This failed to impress Councillor Madoff who favoured a more consultative approach. Of course, Councillor Madoff and other opponents may have wished they had initiated a plan for designing, placing and implementing shelters earlier but sadly they never pursued this opportunity and now the Province is in the driver’s seat putting the neighbourhoods are on the defensive.

A fellow by the name of John Wood made a particularly odius rambling speech, calling the users of shelters the scum of society. This brought an emotional response from Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe who chastised him for hurling a thoughtless racist diatribe into the debate.

I spotted a half-dozen declared and undeclared Council candidates in the audience watching the public hearing but to my disappointment, they all sat on their hands, preferring to observe lest the public catch them in the act of offering an actual opinion.

This was the major hurdle towards the construction of this much-needed facility (I believe a perfunctory Development Permit hearing will also be held). It’s unfortunate that it had to be so controversial but in the end Council did the right thing.

Entry filed under: social issues, urban design.

Moss Street Paint In! C-FAX, 3 p.m. Friday

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