KELOWNA – A packed house is expected at Kelowna city council tomorrow night for a public hearing into a unique but controversial sober living apartment building proposed for Rutland.
Freedom’s Door director Tom Smithwick says he expects the hearing to be “fiery.”
“I understand very much that fear can take a person to a place of ‘I like what you’re doing’ to ‘I don’t want you doing it near me,’” Smithwick says. “Fear comes mostly not based on truth but the emotion of not knowing what it’s about.”
Freedom’s Door is trying to build a 51-unit apartment complex on the corner of McCurdy Road and Rutland Road. Freedom House, as it will be called, would provide on-site counselling services and other programs to support former addicts transitioning back into society and the workforce. But they need approval from council first.
A rezoning application was filed and a fundraising campaign called Build Freedom House was launched. The group needs to raise just over $3 million to get the project off the ground.
The land, donated to the non-profit association by the Knights of Columbus, is in a residential neighbourhood and nearby residents have held protests and attended all the public meetings about the project.
Smithwick says with the opioid crisis getting worse every day, to stand in the way of those trying to get well is going to make the problem worse.
“Freedom’s Door is a recovery home. We are a part of the solution not the problem,” he says. “When people say they don’t want their kids around this building they are saying they don’t want their kids witnessing recovery.”
Freedom’s House, like all Freedom’s Door facilities, will have a zero tolerance policy towards drugs, alcohol and anything else that violates their rules. It’s for graduates of the program who have proven themselves as committed to recovery.
“These guys want to be here,” Smithwick says. “There is a major incentive not to screw this up. Somebody else is on the waiting list waiting to get in.”
For those residents asking why it should go in their neighbourhood, Smithwick says it has to go somewhere.
“I think it’s a good location for such a building,” he says. “Two arterial roads, a lot of services nearby. Walking distance to anything you want, bus routes, amenities like pools and parks nearby."
The public hearing takes place at Kelowna City Hall Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.
“We’re after the solution and we’re not going to stop because without people who are willing to really address the issue of poverty and addiction… then it won’t be addressed," Smithwick says. "And the addiction problem grows and grows.”
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