The opposition of the supportive housing project slated for McCurdy Road is well on their way to reaching their target of 13,000 signatures representing 10 per cent of Kelowna, due in large part to a drive-thru petition signing event run over the past few days.
On Monday, hundreds of cars pulled into Rutland Secondary School to sign their name on the dotted line to say Rutland is not the place for a BC Housing supportive project that allows drugs and alcohol on site.
Audra Boudreau, the woman behind the petition, said she won’t know the exact total of signees until Thursday, but she is sure they have collected more than enough to at least be acknowledged by city officials.
“If there are 13,000 voters that are standing up, it’s saying a lot if they (City of Kelowna councillors) refuse to acknowledge, or if they refuse to change anything, about how much they value us, our children, our seniors, our family and our community,” she said.
The Rutland community has rallied in protest against the 49-unit, five-storey development that was approved by council on June 17, with Coun. Charlie Hodge voting in protest of the application. Councillors could only vote on the form and character of the building as the land had been rezoned for a similar project in 2017.
“(Coun.) Charlie Hodge is the one that showed the most character, in my opinion, on that vote,” Boudreau said. “This all exists because of (city council’s) complete error two years ago when they rezoned a property for an organization to run a facility without them having the money to actually build that facility.”
“The blame for this is squarely on their shoulders and I think they’re trying to save themselves because they’re certainly not trying to save our kids or our seniors.”
Boudreau said she would be in favour of a low-income family housing, or a seniors housing moving into the area, however, she says increased crime, public intoxication and drug use are inevitable with any facility that allows consumption on site.
“It’s going to be an absolute disaster,” she said.
Boudreau said she doesn’t feel the Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has the right tools to manage this facility. She said Heath House—another nearby project run by CMHA—is evidence of that.
CMHA communications manager Jessica Samuels said it is working to eradicate the issues surrounding Heath House.
A CMHA clean-up crew is working to rid the streets around the supportive housing project on Highway 97 and surrounding neighbourhood streets of litter and needles. She said nighttime security has been increased on the property and soon extra security “boots on the ground” will be patrolling the surrounding neighbourhood overnight.
— CaitlinClow (@caitleerach) July 9, 2019
With CMHA’s more than 20 years of service in the community and 200 housing projects in the area, Samuels said CMHA “want(s) to be good neighbours.”
“We understand that people are worried, we understand that people want to feel safe,” she said.
CMHA also said its recent amendments to its tenancy agreement with Heath House residents is another way they’re working to create a safer environment. Residents of CMHA-operated housing is made to sign an agreement that outlines expected behaviour. If these guidelines are failed to be met, residents are relocated to a different supportive housing unit that may be more suitable for their individual needs, or they are connected with a different community partner.
CMHA’s director of service delivery and program innovation Mike Gawliuk said many of these residents utilizing supportive housing haven’t had a roof over their head in a while.
“We have seen individuals who have been in one setting and have created some challenges in one setting and we move them to other settings,” he said. “Once they stabilize and get their feet under them, there is huge improvement.”
Tuesday is the last day to sign the petition in Rutland.