Kelowna neighbours speak out against supportive housing project

Kelowna neighbours speak out against supportive housing project

Residents of Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood met with Global News on Sunday afternoon to voice their concerns regarding a proposed supportive housing project.

Community members gathered at the designated site on McCurdy Road to air their grievances — concerns ranging from drug use, property crime and public safety to property values.

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“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said area resident Matthew Senger. “There’s absolutely no way there should be any wet facilities inside any community.”

Protester and Rutland resident Christopher Bocskei said “a thousand kids pass this corner every day on their way to school.”

“The province needs a different location for this.”

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced the new development in a press release on Thursday.

They said BC Housing has agreed to purchase 49 units located on McCurdy Road, some of which will be reserved for people between the ages of 19 and 24.

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In the release, the ministry lauded the prospect of bringing a new facility to the Rutland community.

“Through strong partnerships, we are starting to make progress with more than 230 supportive homes completed or underway in Kelowna,” said Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs and housing.

“People experiencing homelessness deserve the opportunity to build a better life.”

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As part of the project, the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kelowna says it will oversee daily operations and provide support to residents in need.

“Housing stability is the first step in clearing the way so people can thrive and move towards an improved quality of life,” said Shelagh Turner, executive director with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Kelowna branch.

Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, says he is in support of Kelowna’s Journey Home Strategy, but doesn’t believe now is the time to add another supportive housing project to what he claims is an overwhelmed neighbourhood.

“I’m asking you to pause this new supportive housing project until the issues surrounding the existing Rutland projects are resolved to their neighbourhood’s satisfaction,” he said in an open letter to Robinson.

Since Kelowna’s Health House and Hearthstone facilities opened, Letnick says he has heard that area residents feel “overwhelmed by the increased number of people openly using drugs, exposure to used needles, and general sense of feeling unsafe in their own neighbourhood.”

But despite the opposition, the province appears to be moving ahead with its plans, saying in a statement issued Sunday that “we cannot ask the hundreds of people in Kelowna without homes to wait any longer.”

The proposal will be before city council on Monday for a development permit application. Construction is slated to begin this summer with completion by spring 2021.

-with files from Shelby Thom