Prior to physical distancing guidelines, the Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force met the first Friday of each month, at White Rock Baptist Church. (File photo)

City of White Rock to study transitional shelter for homeless

Council calls for report on ways city could partner with Peninsula Homeless to Housing group

White Rock’s Housing Advisory Committee is looking at working with Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) on permanent transitional housing for the homeless.

At its April 20 meeting, council endorsed a recommendation from the committee that staff provide more information on ways the city could become involved in such a project in White Rock.

Coun. Anthony Manning said the recommendation had been put forward by committee member Joan McMurtry, and the proposed project – although tagged as ‘affordable housing’ – is “more of a transitional shelter for the homeless in the community.”

McMurtry, as former minister of White Rock United Church, has been deeply involved in providing extreme weather shelter facilities in the winter months.

Manning noted that the Star of the Sea parish has hosted an extreme weather shelter for the last two years (following the closure and demolition of the White Rock United Church for redevelopment), but is now closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They were looking for some similar shelter during the pandemic that would run, possibly through June (and) there is still some work that is going on in that area,” Manning told council.

“But there is a need for a permanent transitional shelter…not just one where the homeless can put their heads down for a night, but where, during the day, they can also remain there and there are health and social services available to them to help get them back on the path.”

READ ALSO: White Rock council mulls help for homeless

READ ALSO: Hotels for homeless people could tackle two crises at once: advocates

Coun. Christopher Trevelyan wondered if the project would involve South Surrey as well.

“We can’t finance something that is going to be in Surrey, but we can certainly partner with them at some point,” Manning commented.

Chief Administrative Officer Dan Bottrill said he has not seen any precedent for a city helping to finance a facility in another jurisdiction, but didn’t want to rule it out.

“We’d like to partner with other people,” Bottrill said.

But he added that if any Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) were to be involved in funding a shelter it would have to be for a community amenity within White Rock.

Coun. Helen Fathers said she was concerned that the project had been identified as “affordable housing” rather than a transitional shelter, which led to an amendment identifying the potential project specifically as a transitional shelter.

Mayor Darryl Walker said the request for information on ways to support such a shelter should not be confused with the ongoing work by the city with faith-based groups on the Peninsula to find a location for a temporary shelter for the homeless for the duration of the pandemic.

Council had rejected a request to use the White Rock Community Centre for this purpose at its last meeting, on April 14.

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