Kelowna protesters hope to be game-changers in fight against supportive housing - InfoNews

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Kelowna protesters hope to be game-changers in fight against supportive housing

Victoria Shannon and a man, who refused to give his name, hold a sign for a website aimed at organizing people to stop the McCurdy Road supportive housing project.
June 27, 2019 - 1:30 PM

KELOWNA - Opponents to the McCurdy Road supportive housing complex don’t believe the project is a done deal even though large power shovels have started excavating the site.

“Just because they’ve put shovels in the ground doesn’t mean it will be built,” Victoria Shannon said as she held up a “” sign outside Rutland Centennial Hall last evening, June 26, where B.C. Housing was holding an open house on the project.

Inside, hundreds of people reviewed charts describing the project that was given a development permit by Kelowna city council last week. Plans are to build a 49-unit housing complex for homeless men and women.

The land was already properly zoned so council only had the power to issue a development permit that dealt with the form and character of the building, not the fact that it is located a few blocks from schools and allows residents to use drugs or drink alcohol in their own homes.

READ MORE: Rutlanders asked to 'start complaining'

“This is a malicious attack on our children, pure and simple,” Shannon said, adding that she’s consulting lawyers and looking at how other such projects have been stopped in other parts of the country.

The man who held the other end of the sign, who would not give his name, said the website is an effort to rally people against the project.

“The plan is to get people to come to the site, organize a leadership team and find out who we need to contact – who can make a difference,” he explained to a concerned resident who asked if people should stand in front of the excavators.

Interest in the project was so intense that the entrance to the hall had to be shut just after the 5:30 p.m. scheduled start time for the open house because the hall had reached its capacity under fire safety rules. People staffing the meeting ran out of hand-outs.

Even though shovels are in the ground and it doesn’t appear residents can legally stop the project, the open house is just the start of a dialogue with residents, Ann Howard, Interior Regional Director for B.C. Housing, which is funding the project, told at the session.

“The conversation isn’t about stopping building,” she said. “It’s about providing a safe environment for everyone. It’s not about whether we build or whether we don’t. I think this community wants and needs to have a safe community. That’s what they want. That’s what I’m hearing. And, yes, they are saying this will make it worse. I believe we can work together to actually improve things.”

A map displayed on one of the information panels shows three supportive housing projects between McCurdy Road and Highway 33 near Rutland Road.

New Gate Apartments, at 189 Rutland Road North, has been there for many years and does not appear to be a concern to neighbours. Along with this new project at the corner of Rutland Road and McCurdy, there is another project planned for 280 McIntosh Road, just off Rutland Road near the hall.

While residents complain that Rutland has too many of these types of facilities (five if Hearthstone and Heath House near Highway 97 and Leathhead Road are counted as part of Rutland), Howard noted there is no emergency shelter in Rutland while there are two downtown, along with the Cardington supportive housing project on St. Paul Street that triggered similar opposition when it was built about 10 years ago.

This map shows the 10 supportive housing projects already operating or proposed for Kelowna.
This map shows the 10 supportive housing projects already operating or proposed for Kelowna.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

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