MLA taking 14,000-name petition to legislature

Audra Boudreau, left, and Christopher Bocskei present a 14,000-name petition signed by opponents of a supportive housing facility to Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick on Sunday. Letnick will present the petition in the legislature on Monday.

The views of more than 14,000 people will be conveyed to the provincial legislature on Monday by Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick.

After question period, Letnick will present a petition signed by critics of a supportive housing complex on McCurdy Road in Rutland.

“By introducing the petition on their behalf in the legislature, it will serve as a reminder to the Minister of Housing that all people wish to be treated with respect and feel safe in their neighbourhoods,” Letnick said Sunday.

Along with providing more housing for the homeless and drug-involved, the NDP government should increase funding for programs and treatments that can help people turn their lives around, Letnick said on behalf of fellow Kelowna MLAs Ben Stewart and Steve Thomson.

“As MLAs for Kelowna, we will continue to work with the city on solutions and advocate to the provincial government for more pathways to help those that are addicted and those that have mental health challenges,” Letnick said.

An organizer of the petition, Audra Boudreau, says the location of the housing complex, now under construction, poses a threat to the neighbourhood.

“The petition, at well over 14,000 signatures, sends a loud message of just how strongly the voting and taxpaying residents of Kelowna are opposed to the placement of a non-abstinence-based facility in close proximity to thousands of innocent and vulnerable children, youth, and seniors,” Boudreau said.

She hopes the NDP government will change the designation of the new housing complex to one that provides accommodation to low-income single parents, students, and seniors.

Such a change, she says, “would enrich the neighbourhood and help those who are housing-insecure without placing thousands of vulnerable children and seniors in the immediate vicinity at risk of harm.”

Spurred by the number of people who signed the petition, the City of Kelowna asked for and received BC Housing’s assurance that those chosen to live in the new complex would have to commit to a recovery and treatment program.

Failure to do so, BC Housing says, could jeopardize a person’s continued tenancy in the building.

“All residents chosen to live there will have to make a commitment to ongoing recovery as part of their residency,” Mayor Colin Basran said at the July council meeting where he announced BC Housing had agreed to change the building’s operating model.

“They will have to commit to not using illegal drugs,” Basran said.

Several other so-called supportive housing complexes, where use of illegal drugs does not jeopardize tenancy, have opened around Kelowna since the NDP took power in 2017.