Re-zoning defeat produces no real winners

"Everyone agrees that our downtown core is not always safe and welcoming."

The story of Sisyphus from Greek mythology is often used to illustrate an impossible task. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “something Sisyphean demands unending, thankless and ultimately unsuccessful efforts”.

That is precisely the position the Ksan House Society recently found itself embroiled in.

April 25 was a sad and disappointing day for Terrace with council’s 4-3 decision to defeat the rezoning bylaw change that would have allowed Ksan to own and operate a permanent damp shelter in a central location.

As well, the preceding weeks leading up to the decision further illustrated another related and underlying issue: fear and ignorance appear to be thriving in Terrace.

It was difficult to watch so much misinformation at work to inspire, motivate and even incite councillors Bujtas, Downie, Christiansen and mayor LeClerc to cast their no votes to the project; a by-law change that was recommended by city staff.

The journey that lead to this disappointing result wasn’t given enough voice or consideration.

Opposition was swift, and at times, nasty.

Opposition to the proposal has polarized Terrace and allowed some blatant hate to be aired publicly.

Beyond the need for a permanent damp shelter, the two public hearings aired an unattractive side of Terrace that will take more than catchy phrases like “reaching out” to Ksan and “generous offers” of money to facilitate a future discussion.

It was council’s decision and they will need to figure out how to undo some of the damage that’s been done. Ksan will continue to honour its commitment to providing shelter for our vulnerable Terrace citizens and will work with all interested persons to provide the most compassionate community that we can have.

Ksan has been running a temporary damp shelter out of the All Nations Centre, a building owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, for the past two winters.

With no shower, kitchen or laundry facilities, it was a temporary solution while Ksan looked for a permanent site.

Working with other community agencies, that search has been ongoing for years.

For the mayor to suggest that it is time to begin to dialogue ignores the incredible efforts that Ksan and other community organizations have put into looking for a solution to this growing problem.

The property at 4614 Lazelle was the first place that was suitable and met  shared criteria. It was also a mere 500 metres from the current location.

Ksan has a thirty-year history of owning and operating successful and professionally staffed shelters.  This project would have been no different.

It would not have been a flop house (as one upset person suggested); it would have been staffed 24/7 by trained and dedicated staff.  Additionally, the proposed damp shelter was never proposed as a detox centre.

Neither detox nor treatment are part of Ksan’s mandate, nor will they be in the future.

It is unfortunate that Ksan didn’t press the point that the downtown core already has numerous publicly zoned properties. Apparently some public are more welcome than others.

Naysayers repeatedly stated that Ksan’s proposal was merely a “Band-Aid” solution.

Ksan never felt the proposed permanent site would solve all of the problems in the downtown core, but it was a tangible first step.  To a bleeding person, a Band-Aid is a necessity; it provides comfort and opportunity for healing.

Everyone agrees that our downtown core is not always safe and welcoming.

Ksan offered a partial solution.  Holding off for an interim report from the Homelessness Task Group which may echo the need for a damp shelter in a central location further delays any concrete action.

In the meantime, Ksan moves ahead in its search for a permanent damp shelter site with compassion and the understanding that we will need to continue to educate our community about the effects of and numerous reasons for homelessness.

Long-time Terrace resident Greer Kaiser is the current board chair of Ksan.