A planned new supportive housing facility slated for a residential area in the Rutland neighbourhood of Kelowna will allow drug use on-site.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has confirmed the facility will be what is known as a “harm reduction” site.
“Yes, residents are allowed to make their own choices and this may include substance use,” said a Ministry of ministry spokeswoman in an email response to question from the Capital News.
The planned 50-unit facility on McIntosh Road was announced last week, a day after a packed public hearing to rezone land for another controversial supportive housing project slated for Kelowna that will also allow drug use on-site.
That project is slated for Agassiz Road and residents living in that area have protested plans for the project saying they fear for their safety if the project goes ahead, fear drug dealers will move into the area and fear their property values will fall.
At the public hearing, 34 of the 66 speakers who addressed council opposed plans for the Agassiz Road project, all citing the fact the site is in the middle of residential area. Most pointed to the fact drugs will be allowed to be consumed on site as their major reason for their concerns.
The housing, both on Agassiz Road and McIntosh Road will be for people who are currently homeless in the city, some of whom the ministry and B.C. Housing say may be drug addicts.
Both the ministry and B.C. Housing say because the units in the building will be the tenants’ homes, the tenants should be allowed to do what anyone else in the community can do in their own homes, including use drugs.
But it says there will be supervision and medical staff on hand in the building to monitor any drug use.
“Our supportive housing is based on the housing first model, meaning that tenants are not required to enter a treatment program in order to receive housing,” said the email from the ministry about the McIntosh Road project.
“Once tenants are safely housed, they have access to the supports they need and connection to treatment programs should they choose. Housing first is a proven model that allows people to stabilize their lives in order to transition to more permanent housing.”
It goes on to say residents of supportive housing live independently and will make their own choices regarding lifestyle, but will be encouraged to consider more healthy options.
“BC Housing does not discriminate against a person based on their level of need. Some people with substance use issues will be housed at the site, however, residents will be carefully chosen to ensure they are matched with the right level of services they need to live a more healthy, stable life.”
Requests for information about how B.C. Housing plans to address public concerns about how the McIntosh Road facility will operate in light of the concerns expressed by the Agassiz Road residents have yet to be responded to.
At the public hearing, Agassiz Road residents claimed they were not told initially that the planned supportive housing there would allow dug use.
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