Contributed An artists rendering of Freedom’s Door facility, proposed for the corner of McCurdy Road and Rutland Road in Kelowna.

Freedom House project on hold, funding opportunity evaporates

‘Unless we have a knight in shining armour … that puts an end to the project.”

After surmounting significant public opposition, the team behind a housing project for men recovering from drugs and alcohol addictions may have had their efforts scuttled by an organization they thought was on their side.

Tom Smithwick from Freedom’s Door said he’s recently spoken with a representative from BC Housing, and learned that the $4 million funding they’d been relying on to build a 49-unit supportive housing project in Rutland is not likely to come through due to a changing mandate.

“We at Freedom’s Door put in a grant application to BC Housing over a year ago for the Freedom House project at McCurdy and Rutland roads,” said Smithwick. “And we received a phone call indicating the applications of the past will not be going forward and there will be a new policy or set of criteria in place to decide who will be able to get funding from BC Housing.”

READ MORE: FREEDOM HOUSE LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

Plans for Freedom’s House seem to fall outside the newly established funding criteria.

Grants are available for joint ventures with developers creating market-cost housing for middle-income British Columbians, Indigenous housing, addictions housing and for women who are fleeing violent environments.

The closest Freedom’s House comes to meeting the criteria is under the addictions housing model, but Smithwick said that Freedom’s House is for people who are already dry and in recovery — so it doesn’t meet the Crown corporation’s requirements.

The total cost for the Freedom House project was $9 million. Around $5 million was to be raised by the organization—$2 million of which has been raised— and the other $4 million was expected to come from a BC Housing grant.

“Unless we have a knight in shining armour on a white horse giving us $4 million instead of the government that puts an end to the project,” said Smithwick.

“We will have to move to a Plan B,” he said, adding that the need doesn’t go away just because a funding opportunity has.

“We have 50 guys with us now, and housing is critical in Kelowna. Affordable housing is almost impossible and there is almost rental no housing available… so when our graduates need us the question is where do they go?”

An abstinence environment, which is what Freedom House was expected to create, is in high need.

“We have to solve that somehow,” he said. “We want to be part of that solution as we have in the past. We have been operating for 16 years as of Sept. 1, with five duplex homes housing 60 guys… but the teams (are) greater than that.”

Plans for Freedom House were some of the most hotly contested of 2017, with residents of the area urging council to reject the proposal.

Many said it was in the wrong location, being too residential, too close to schools, short on amenities and services. They also complained it would be too big and would add more traffic to an already busy intersection.

Many who opposed the development also took direct aim at the Freedom’s Door program and the men who will live at the building.

After a four-hour public hearing that saw close to 300 people pack council chambers in September 2017, the project was approved by council in a 6-3 vote by Kelowna city council.

BC Housing has yet to return a call.

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