Kelowna residents should stop complaining about supportive housing complexes designed to help the homeless, Mayor Colin Basran says.
“The time to complain is over,” Basran said Monday as council approved another such complex, this one a 49-suite project at the corner of Rutland Road and McCurdy Road.
“We have a plan,” Basran said, referring to the city’s Journey Home strategy to address homelessness. People should embrace the scheme, a key part of which is to provide housing to people whether or not they are willing to enter substance-abuse programs, Basran said.
To continue to raise objections and concerns about supportive housing projects, Basran said, “just adds to the problem” of effectively addressing homelessness.
Plans for the project were announced just last week and immediately triggered some community opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick has called for the NDP government to put the project on hold, basing his objection in part on what he says is Rutland’s disproportionate number of such housing complexes.
Council’s quick approval of the project was possible because the land was rezoned two years ago to support such a similarly sized residential development. That housing project was designed to support men who were recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.
However, Freedom’s Door, the faith-based charity that was behind that proposal, did not receive government funding for the project. Freedom’s Door operates an abstinence-based recovery program, in which participants are expected to receive counselling and treatment for their addictions.
When the Freedom’s Door proposal collapsed, the land was sold by the Knights of Columbus to BC Housing, a Crown agency. The new supportive housing project was announced last Thursday.
Because the land is already suitably zoned, the only issue at Monday’s meeting for councillors to consider was the form and character of the building. Several said it was an attractive design.
“I see it being upscale, attractive and very well put-together,” Coun. Luke Stack said.
“I think the building’s on point. It’s beautiful,” Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said.
Despite their support for the building’s form and character, several councillors nonetheless acknowledged community concerns about the project. And they urged the operator, the Canadian Mental Health Association, to be mindful of those concerns.
“It’s incumbent on the operator and BC Housing and the province to ensure this functions properly,” Coun. Brad Sieben said. “There’s some apprehension in the community.”
“People are worried about this, but we have to find homes for people who are homeless,” Coun. Mohini Singh said. “I appeal to the operators to be extremely mindful of the safety and security of the area.”
But Coun. Gail Given noted the project plans call for the Knights of Columbus to get a new meeting hall in the building: “They’re not fearful of the residents.”
Coun. Charlie Hodge voted against issuing the necessary permit. He said he was doing so because he didn’t like the way the project came about.