Public forum fails to ease Kelowna residents’ frustration over supportive housing

BC Housing’s information session about its new ‘wet’ facility leaves neighbours with more questions

Tensions remain high in Rutland after more than 500 neighbours in opposition of a 49-unit supportive housing development planned for McCurdy Road attended an information session by BC Housing and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

“What we’re here to do is build community,” BC Housing regional director Ann Howard said.

“We want to work with the community to make improvements for everyone and work together.”

But many residents said they left the meeting held at Rutland Centennial Hall on Wednesday night feeling frustrated and disappointed.

They were expecting more of a question-and-answer session but instead were greeted with a heavy security presence and poster boards outlining the project.

Representatives from BC Housing, Interior Health, Journey Home and CMHA were on hand inside to answer questions residents had about the project.

But outside the hall, a petition was passed around and a man who wished not to identify himself unfurled a banner with a web address on it.

In response to a June 17 comment from Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran saying “the time to complain is over,” a group has formed a website startcomplaining.ca to organize rallies and demand the project be relocated.

READ MORE: Petition started in protest of Kelowna’s McCurdy Road supportive housing

READ MORE: McCurdy project in Rutland gets go-ahead from Kelowna councillors

Many Rutland residents have expressed opposition to the housing project location due to its proximity to the schools and other family facilities and that drugs and alcohol could be consumed on site.

Protesters said they worry crime, theft and visible drug use will become a bigger problem in their community.

“It’s not in our best interest or their best interest for it to be a chaotic environment,” CMHA Kelowna and District executive director Shelagh Turner said.

“We’ve got this. We know how to support people and as a community, we will work together to make sure that people inside the housing feel safe and supported and the people outside the housing feel safe and supported.”

Similar projects in the area, such as Heath House, have experienced ongoing issues that have residents saying they doubt the McCurdy housing will be any different.

READ MORE: Rutland rallies against McCurdy house

But Central Okanagan Journey Home Society executive director Gaelene Askeland said the issues associated with homelessness are often remedied when these individuals are housed.

Future residents of the McCurdy residence will have to sign a 14-page agreement explaining behavioural expectations and CMHA, which will oversee the day-to-day operations, will evict tenants who fail to follow the terms of agreement, Turner said.

“We have people that are going to need (supportive housing) for six months, or a year or two and then they’re going to want to move out on their own to a place that isn’t as constrictive—where they don’t have a 14-page agreement,” Askeland said.

READ MORE: Ex-homeless Rutland man says supportive housing too close to schools

Howard said the McCurdy Road house is not intended for those suffering from addiction exclusively.

She explained a variety of people in need will call 130 McCurdy Road home, including people with medical, physical and mental limitations, individuals with affordability issues and addictions issues.

“I think the goal of supportive housing is really to start once we have housing then it’s the start to wellness,” Howard said.


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@kelownacapnews.com

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