Vernon neighbourhood divided over supportive housing

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Vernon supportive housing controversy – Nov 20, 2017

It’s meant to keep people off the streets, but residents of a Vernon neighbourhood are divided over plans for a new supportive housing facility in their area.

Some are concerned about safety and say they weren’t consulted, while others are outspoken about their support for the development.

The province announced the supportive housing project along with new shelter spaces for Vernon last week.

Victoria is spending $11 million on the two projects but some don’t like the idea of building supportive housing on an empty lot at the corner of 27 Avenue and 35 Street in downtown Vernon.

“We already have enough problems in this area,” said Cathie Brodie who lives next door.

“If they are transitioning, who is to say that they are not going to fall back? It just doesn’t make me feel real safe.”

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On the next block, David Cottrell worries it will impact his property value and said he wasn’t consulted.

“The people have to go somewhere but they didn’t ask anybody. They just said, ‘we are going to do this,’” said Cottrell.

The housing announcement follows rising public concern about a homeless camp in the same neighbourhood. However, some argue the supportive housing will only make the situation worse.

“Just imagine once word gets out about all these freebies the homeless get in Vernon, we are going to inherit more homeless from other cities,” wrote Rob Barker, who said he has two family members living in the area.

The John Howard Society, which will run the facility, doesn’t think the new housing project will attract people to the area and said residents will be paying rent.

“Most of the people who are homeless in Vernon are from the area or have family here,” said the society’s co-executive director, Randene Wejr.

Wejr said officials did go door-to-door consulting neighbours about the project and there haven’t been safety problems at other similar facilities run by the society.

“People will have to go through an assessment process to see if they are ready for permanent housing,” she said.

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“We have had neighbourhood associations say that they feel that their communities are safer having facilities in their neighbourhood.”

Meanwhile, other neighbours support the project.

“I think it is a very good idea. I think it is sorely needed. There is so many people on the streets,” said Lynette Smith.

“They all need somewhere to live and they are actually not that scary. They are just looking for a place to live,” said Andre Bourgeois who also lives in the area.

BC Housing said the location was picked because it’s close to amenities, transportation and support services.

Officials will likely face more questions from residents at an open house on the project at the end of November.

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