The Portal homeless shelter in downtown Chilliwack is closing its doors.
Last month council put a 90-day deadline in place to see if an alternative location could be found – instead of extending the shelter’s temporary use permit (TUP) at the Yale Road location for another 18 months, as requested by BC Housing.
But no one in Chilliwack would lease them a space that they could transform into a temporary shelter in that amount of time.
“We had to move on it,” said Mayor Ken Popove, about the strategy to relocate Portal residents by the end of the week, about 48 people, to two different locations.
Some will be moving into the other Ruth and Naomi’s Mission (RAN) facility on Margaret Avenue, while others will go into the Travelodge, until the combined supportive housing/shelter is completed on Rowat and Trethewey by early 2022, the mayor said.
“It’s not a perfect solution but it was the best we could come up with,” Popove said. The plan to close the shelter was led by RAN, in concert with city officials, Fraser Health, BC Housing, and other partners.
A group of residents fighting since 2019 to get The Portal moved out of the downtown and away from local schools is getting its wish.
Tina McNeill Ortutay thanked those who helped make it happen, by writing letters, phoning and keeping up the pressure on city officials.
“It truly shows that if a community works together they can get change to happen,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Ortutay also thanked members of city council, “who made it very clear” that The Portal would not be allowed to continue to operate on Yale Road.
“Congratulations to everyone who fought for this, this is truly a win for the downtown, and a good step to taking it back for all the honest hard working citizens that live here,” she said.
When the permit for The Portal was about to expire in April, council heard from a steady stream of outraged residents, about the nightmare of living near the shelter while awaiting a new facility to be built, and the terrible toll it took on them, in more than 100 letters. Complaints about urination, littering, trespassing, needles, vandalism, open drug use, and noise poured in to city hall at the time.
Coun. Chris Kloot said, before voting last month for the 90-day shortened deadline, that he felt they owed that to the community, and that “time was up” for the downtown location of the shelter.
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