Terrace, B.C. council’s shelter no vote sends unwelcome message

"Examined philosophically, the vote speaks to the council members’ want of humanity and decency."

With a 4-3 vote city council narrowly rejected the Ksan House Society’s rezoning application for a homeless shelter in downtown Terrace.

The subject of this decision and the closeness of the vote call for a closer look at the project, its proponents and its opponents.

The applicant, Ksan House Society, is a social service organization, a private society with a 30-year history in this community.

Ksan derives its funding from a broad range of sources, both public and private. This tends to acknowledge the relevance of the society’s programs and activities within our community.

Ksan’s stated mission is to “empower, assist and support people experiencing gender violence, violence, poverty, homelessness and other forms of oppression/marginalization.”

Is homelessness in Terrace a significant problem, or is Ksan’s assessment an overstatement? Was its rezoning application motivated by need or by ideological frenzy?

Parties who opposed Ksan’s application, led by the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce and the Terrace Downtown Business Improvement Area, feared that rezoning the property in question would deter business investment. Could that fear be driven by investment ideology?

Ksan’s proposal to convert a vacant downtown commercial building into a homeless shelter called for a significant investment.

In addition to building renovations, the proposed facility would have contributed to a cost reduction for a range of local emergency services.

I have a few questions for the three council members and the mayor who voted against the rezoning. Do you consider the reality of 100 homeless persons in our community to be acceptable?

If not, does the municipality have any responsibility in the matter, or does the responsibility rest wholly with the provincial and/or federal governments?

If homelessness is a problem in Terrace, are you waiting for a group of property owners to petition council with a demand that a vacant parcel in their neighbourhood be rezoned to permit the construction of a “damp” homeless shelter?

And finally, is it your definition of leadership to boldly follow vociferous and moneyed interests?

The community’s fabric is an intricate network of social, cultural and art societies. Associations and groups of this kind nurture what may be described as an organic community.

The abyss that separates the point of view of the majority on Council as expressed in the Ksan rezoning application amounts to a radical and pronounced dissociation from an organic community’s sensibilities.

Examined philosophically, the vote speaks to the council members’ want of humanity and decency.

Council members should arrange for a tour of the city’s churches. Visit these facilities and read the inscriptions that adorn these buildings. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).

Thoughts of the kind are not theological propaganda; they are esteemed by secular as much as by faith-based civilizations.

Do members of council recognize in such messages the soul and spirit of our community, of the people on whose behalf you have been elected to govern?

By rejecting the rezoning application the majority on council has voted to retain the status quo.

The homeless may continue to roam downtown (discreetly, of course).

They may park their borrowed (stolen?) shopping carts with their treasured worldly possessions behind vacant commercial buildings.

They could go so far as to establish their own community of plywood and tarp shelters in any location provided that they remain invisible.

The city’s web page refers to Terrace as being the Heart of the Northwest.

This is of course a geographic reference. To reflect council’s philosophy, the banner should read “Wallet of the Northwest.”

Terrace could be an organic community if city council were prepared to assume its share of the responsibilities such designation entails.

Sadly, by a 4-3 vote council has rejected that notion and declared Terrace to be a ruthless contractual society.

Retired public sector administrator Andre Carrel lives in Terrace, B.C.