Berry: Ignoring concerns isn’t going to help Kelowna’s homeless

A few months ago, my parent’s house was broken into.

A man had smashed a rock through the basement window and argued with my mother while she was inside, a terrifying experience that has her up late at night and my father at the ready with a baseball bat at the slightest noise.

While this wasn’t the first time they had something broken into, or stolen, they have become increasingly concerned about the amount of crime in their neighbourhood, especially after a safe injection site opened within a block from their house.

After 20 years of living in the neighbourhood, raising three children who were free to roam the streets with little concern, they aren’t monsters for sharing their experiences and noticing a change taking place.

According to a Statistics Canada report, neighbourhoods that don’t share common values and don’t know or help each other and have less social control are associated with higher levels of crime.

Although a safe injection site is not the same as the housing Kelowna is providing for its homeless, it is concerning for local residents if something changes in a neighbourhood, especially when it’s regarding the safety and well-being of its residents.

NIMBY-ism aside, the city should be addressing these concerns, and providing residents with information and reassurances about why the complexes are going where they are, and how building a community actually decreases crime.

These complexes have security on site, provide food, housing and access to resources for its clients.

Medicine Hat, Alta. has been touting how it has alleviated homelessness from its city for years. The project, which Kelowna’s homeless strategy is modelled after, has been successful in reducing hospital visits, incarceration and the time spent in shelters, according to the Medicine Hat News.

In June, the city’s program to tackle homelessness is moving towards more advanced support for its clients, and said it now is down-sizing its housing first service because it’s no longer needed.

A formerly homeless woman who spent time travelling back and forth from Kelowna to Victoria said she was able to change her life when she was able to have her own apartment, and was able to separate herself from areas with high drug use.

These are the conversations the community needs for projects like Agassiz Road, for people who were quick to point fingers to crime.

My parents were also not consulted prior to the opening of the safe injection site. I point to the municipalities (and in Port Alberni’s safe injection site case: VIHA), as they should be doing a better job informing and listening to their residents.

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