The owner of a Richmond, B.C. sports facility is upset about plans to convert an industrial building into an emergency homeless shelter — right next to his gym.
The City of Richmond has partnered with the Salvation Army and BC Housing to convert the building at 12040 Horseshoe Way into an emergency shelter that will house and support up to 36 men and women experiencing homelessness. It is tentatively scheduled to open during the fall of 2018.
Ying Wang, owner of Wayland Sports — a sports facility for children, says he only found out last week about the city's plans.
"It's not fair for us," Wang said. "We had no time to prepare a complaint."
He says thousands of children visit his gym every week, and he is worried the close proximity of the shelter next to his facility will create safety hazards.
Wang claims after a shelter opened near another gym he owns in Chilliwack, he saw an increase in crime and drug paraphernalia in the neighbourhood.
"I don't believe these kinds of people should be neighbours for a thousand, two thousand kids," he said.
The area is zoned for industrial business, but the city says the zoning bylaws are broad enough to allow for an emergency shelter space without any formal changes.
Shelter will run smoothly: mayor
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says he is aware of the neighbour's concerns, but says the shelter will be managed expertly.
"[We] are trying to make sure that not only the opening is smooth and will not impact on the neighbourhood and the other people in the area, but this will be a permanent situation," Brodie said.
City staff have consulted with the RCMP detachment — which he notes is located "literally around the corner from the property" — and come up with plans to ensure there are 24-hour support services for shelter users.
Brodie added he had personally met with Wang to talk about the shelter space.
He also encouraged people to come to a public meeting about the shelter project on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 from 3 to 7 p.m. PT at the Richmond Public Library's Ironwood Branch.
He said staff is planning more meetings and will meet with any neighbour or stakeholder who has particular concerns.
Limited shelter space in city
Brodie says the shelter space is desperately needed in the city.
"We are alive to the social need ... that we need to provide more access to shelter or people who are in need of housing," he said.
Currently, the city only has one year-round emergency shelter run by the Salvation Army that only has space for 10 men. They say they are turning away 130 visits every month. The shelter has been sold and it will eventually be closed. The existing services will be transferred to the new shelter.
The city is donating the land, BC Housing is providing the funding to improve and renovate the structure as well as the operating budget, and the Salvation Army will be responsible for managing the shelter.
With files from Deb Goble