Councillors hear concerns about proposed overnight homeless shelter in Mackenzie Avenue church

Neighbourhood consultation on proposed 10-bed winter overnight shelter on Mackenzie Avenue jumps the gun, leading to concerns from some residents.

File photo: The basement of the United Church on Mackenzie Avenue. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The mayor and some city councillors said they have received significant feedback on a winter overnight homeless shelter proposed for the basement of the United Church on Mackenzie Avenue — before the consultation on the plans has officially started.

The plan is to build a 10-bed shelter in the basement of the church, which is located at the corner of Mackenzie Avenue and Third Street. It is proposed to be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and would operate from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31. Guests would be served basic meals and would receive toiletries and bedding.

The idea is not new; the concept for an overnight shelter during the winter months has been in the background for a few years as organizers sought a suitable location.

The shelter would accept males and females seeking overnight shelter, and children would be allowed with families under some conditions.

The proposed operator is the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society and funding for construction upgrades would come from BC Housing.

City staff and councillors discussed the proposal at an Aug. 22 meeting with the proponents. The next step was for council to approve a resolution allowing the proponents to commence a consultation plan with the neighbourhood.

However, in the interim, letters and communications were sent out to neighbours, some of whom were surprised and riled by the plan for the shelter.

At their Aug. 27 meeting, the mayor and councillors were slated to give the OK for a consultation plan, but instead were already dealing with negative feedback.

Mayor Gary Sulz said he had people lining up with concerns about the plan. “The process was short circuited,” said mayor Gary Sulz. “Which caused some concerns for members of the community.”

“They need clarity,” said Coun. Steven Cross. “People deserve that. A lot of the worries about this are fear driven.” 

After some discussion, council eventually approved plans to consult with the neighbourhood on the proposed shelter.

The discussion also touched on staff responsibility for the shelter — aspects of the project are being overseen by the city’s planning department, the community economic development department and the city’s social development coordinator, leading to a question about accountability if issues arise.

For more, see the discussion on the proposed shelter from the Aug. 27 council meeting here:

Bylaw change would allow more temporary worker buildings

The winter shelter discussion flagged a technical concern that city staff say needed to be addressed to allow the facility. City development services director Marianne Wade explained that a “Temporary Use Permit” would be required to allow the shelter in the basement of the church.

However, she said the city’s current Temporary Use Permit bylaw is not up to date with provincial requirements, so it needed to be updated in order to facilitate the temporary shelter.

In her report and in discussion at the council meeting, Wade said updating the Temporary Use Permit would have other benefits.

Wade said it could allow for temporary worker housing to be built on lots around town. “The whole idea is to permit a use that is not allowed,” Wade said. 

The temporary use permits are time limited — for example, the use would be permitted for a three years.

Likely more to come

The project is currently in development and is entering a public consultation phase. Check back for more stories on the plan in the future, including talking with proponents about their plans.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.