Duncan neighbours fight homeless shelter next to preschool

Duncan neighbours fight homeless shelter next to preschool
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WATCH: A controversial plan to open a homeless shelter next to a popular Duncan preschool is drawing anger from parents and neighbours. Advocates for the shelter say its badly needed in the area but the preschool worries its doors will be forced to close if the shelter goes ahead. Skye Ryan reports. 

As excited Cowichan preschool students returned from Christmas break Monday, their parents and teachers worried about who is planning to move in next door.

“There won’t be a preschool if it goes through,” said Cowichan Preschool teacher Trish Pontious.

“We’ve already had parents say that they won’t bring their children here and I understand that.”

There are plans to turn the empty Charles Hoey school, that sits directly to the right of Cowichan Preschool, into an extreme weather shelter for homeless women. Neighbours say they just learned about these plans after successfully stopping plans to turn change rooms at McAdam Park, just to the left of the preschool, from being turned into a homeless warming station.

“We were like, you know what, we can enjoy Christmas we can just relax because that isn’t going to happen,” said parent Tanya Berry.

“And then two days later, we read the article that we had another fight on our hands over here.”

“It’s right next door,” said Pontious. “It’s right there. We share the same fence line.”

Advocates for the shelter, with the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness, say the school is a great solution for the community that has counted over 20 women living on the streets every night. The building already has facilities like washrooms to begin accepting clients.

“The shelter operation hours, first of all, are 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.,” said Keith Simmonds with the Cowichan Coalition to Address Homelessness. “A preschool is closed between those hours so no matter what, the clientele is at the shelter won’t be present when the preschool is open,” said Simmonds.

North Cowichan has already granted funding for the shelter and Monday night Duncan City Council is being asked for $3,000 to help get it off the ground. But dozens of parents of preschoolers and neighbours plan to be there urging council not to grant the request.

As both sides, see very different visions for the now abandoned Duncan block.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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