Dignitaries, including local MP Stephen Fuhr and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, cut the ribbon to open Heath House in January. —Image: contributed

‘This has destroyed our neighbourhood’ Rutland resident says Heath House is blight on community

Residents in Rutland have seen a spike in crime since the Heath House opened in January

A Rutland woman is blaming a rash of crimes in her neighbourhood on the recent opening of Heath House, a supportive housing project for people who are at risk of becoming homeless.

Lorelei Strand said that on Sunday night a video surveillance camera captured someone scoping out vehicles on her street before breaking into her neighbour’s car to steal some hunting gear. She lives adjacent to Heath House on Highway 97.

After successfully breaking in, the same suspect tried to break into her vehicle using a crowbar.

“He did quite a bit of damage on my car, but he never got in,” said Strand.

“This is just a symptom of what happens when you move wet housing into a residential neighbourhood. We’re dealing with things like this 24/7.”

READ MORE: Kelowna’s newest supportive housing project opens

READ MORE: CMHA Kelowna takes steps to clean up Heath House

Since the 40-unit building opened in January she has noticed a drastic increase in crime and drug use in the area.

“We’re dealing with things like petty crime, drug dealing, open drug use, prostitution as well as thefts and attempted break and entries,” said Strand.

“This is rampant in our area and we never had to deal with it before. This has destroyed our neighbourhood.”

Strand said she and her neighbour both reported the most recent crimes to the RCMP and provided the police with the video. However, the RCMP told her that without being able to identify the suspect there’s not much they can do.

She said it’s not the first time that she has had to deal with unwanted people in her neighbourhood.

“I’ve had rocks thrown at me, I’ve had people come in to shoot up in my back yard and my front yard. I’ve had to confront these people and they are quite violent and aggressive,” said Strand. “These people run our neighbourhood.”

The Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), which operates the 40-unit building, said it takes these types of concerns from residents very seriously and has already taken several steps to try and mitigate their concerns.

“When we hear about things like this video, we take a look at it. Our staff at Heath House know what our residents look like and know what their guests look like, so we know pretty quickly whether or not the individual that is caught in these images are associated with Heath House,” said Jessica Samuels, communications manager for the Kelowna branch of CMHA.

“We are also in regular contact with the RCMP and we encourage residents, if they see something that is illegal, to call RCMP.”

She said the organization took steps in July to improve the area, including adding security, cleaning-up trash and revamping the intensive tenant’s agreement. There is also a community advisory committee for residents and businesses to bring forward concerns and complaints.

“We were able to secure some extra neighbourhood security that patrols the neighbourhood overnight from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.,” said Samuels.

Under the new tenant’s agreement, all tenants of Heath House and any other Kelowna CMHA housing project are to sign a detailed tenant’s agreement that outlines expected behaviour, the rules of the house and the good neighbour policy.

Samuels confirmed that under the new rules residents are still allowed to use drugs on the premise.

“Abstinence is not part of their tenant program agreement,” said Samuels.

If residents fail to comply with the rest of the rules, other arrangements will be made for that individual. As of July CMHA said 10 residents have been “evicted” from the home since it opened.

A survey from March 2018 indicated there are more than 280 homeless people in Kelowna.

READ MORE: Rutland community rallies against McCurdy house

With files from Caitlin Clow


Paul Clarke
Assistant bureau chief, B.C. Interior South Division
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