British Columbia

Gregor Robertson: homeless shelter plans to go ahead, despite opposition

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson promises to improve consultation with residents - but still plans to keep providing homeless shelters, despite neighbourhood opposition.

Vancouver mayor has promised to improve consultation with residents as he enters his third consecutive term

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on a previous visit to the studio at CBC Vancouver. (CBC)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has promised to improve consultations with residents as he enters his third consecutive term — but still plans to keep providing homeless shelters, despite neighbourhood opposition.

"My direction has been that we take action and we get people inside, and then we work out with the neighbourhood any problems that arise from that," Robertson told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Residents in Yaletown have been vocal opponents of two new homeless shelters in the area and have started a petition asking the mayor to remove the shelters.

A counter-petition has also gone up, calling on the mayor to remove what it calls "selfish yuppies."

"It shows the contrast here in Vancouver. There is an absolute moral imperative that we deal with homelessness and we create opportunities for people to get off the street," Robertson said.

The City of Vancouver is turning the old Quality Inn hotel on Howe Street into transitional housing for the homeless for at least two years. (Shiral Tobin)

"We have to have shelter space, we have to have more housing for people who are vulnerable. This is one arena where consultation has been more challenging."

The city's temporary HEAT (Homeless Emergency Action Team) shelters that have operated in the city each winter since 2009 have been the subject of neighbourhood opposition, and in 2009 the mayor shut down one of the shelters following neighbourhood complaints.

Robertson maintained overall the program has been successful, and has caused very few problems to residents.

"We can do this. We've done it successfully, and we do it best when the neighbourhood is involved and there's a deeper connection between those who are getting an opportunity to get off the street and … neighbours," Robertson said.

Overall, he said, he will try to find creative new ways for council to consult with residents during his next four years in office.

"It's not easy to do. We actually do a lot more than we used to historically, but we're not working with big open spaces anymore in Vancouver. All these changes are right in neighbourhoods."

To hear Mayor Gregor Robertson's full interview with Rick Cluff, click the audio labelled: Gregor Robertson begins 3rd term as Vancouver mayor

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