The Fireweed Collective Society will reapply to rezone the home the organization purchased for their women’s shelter.
While public opposition from residents and property owners near the proposed new shelter on Second Avenue led to mayor and council voting down the application the first time, the group is hopeful education and shows of support will help convince the District mayor and council there is a benefit to the community in providing long-term security for their organization.
So far, the group has toured mayor and council through the proposed new facility, explaining their need for more space for women in very stressful circumstances.
In the shelter they now occupy in the Sitka Building, the open common area provides no opportunity for women and their children dealing with trauma to get away from the rest of the residents in the shelter, and the two and a half bedrooms must be shared by up to eight people.
The group has also gathered signatures on a petition of support for the organization, hoping to show mayor and council the community is largely behind their organization and the move to a larger facility.
In addition, the group would like to secure long-term security for their shelter, which is currently in the Sitka Building on Stuart Drive owned by Nechako Valley Community Services Society (NVCSS).
NVCSS has been looking at moving their location, and if so, Fireweed fears they could be faced with having to move without anywhere to go should NVCSS need to sell their building. NVCSS has also been experiencing financial troubles, requesting tax exemption at the last council meeting quoting a loss of over $400,000 in the past year.
Opposition by their neighbours directly across the street still exists, however, and Nadine Hoy, who owns the home on the opposite sid of Second Ave. with her husband, still said she has concerns.
“My feelings have not changed at all,” she said. She worries the house, which the couple rents out, will become less appealing to renters, and one of her current tenants told her he was thinking about moving had the rezoning been approved last time.
“It’s definitely a strike against us,” she said.
Neil Hoy, who is one of the owners of another building across the street from the proposed shelter with seven rental units still opposes the rezoning as well.
While he does not necessarily think the shelter itself will bring problems, he also said some of his renters have expressed concern, with two telling him they may move out if the shelter is approved and others saying they may not have moved in had there been a shelter there already.
In addition, Neil Hoy said he does not believe the home Fireweed has purchased is suitable for what they are proposing to use it for, and notes he disagrees with the organization’s characterization of the neighbourhood, saying it has always been residential in nature.
Hoy said he would have considered it more appropriated to design something for their purposes which would allow women being admitted to maintain some autonomy from those already in the shelter.
He also said he considers it a possible misuse of funding dollars to have purchased the home before it was properly zoned.
One Fireweed employee said she had supportive comments from some residents in the neighbouring building while she was in the yard at the proposed new shelter.