When business operators on Commerce Avenue in Kelowna first learned that a housing complex for the homeless was proposed for the area, many expressed concerns.
“I was very concerned. Having come from the downtown area, I knew some of the problems that were there and some of the issues these folks were having so it was very concerning,” said That Pottery Place owner Bonnie Worsdall.
Worsdall’s business is directly across from Hearthstone, a 46-unit supportive housing complex operated by the John Howard Society.
“They’re nice people, we’ve had an opportunity to meet some of the folks,” she said.
Some business operators in the area were concerned about things like increased traffic, loitering, drug use and the possibility of vandalism.
But nearly a month and a half after Hearthstone opened its doors, businesses that Global News talked to reported no major issues.
“We’re here late at night and you can see in all their windows, you can see staff all the time. If anybody comes to the door, someone goes right to the door to see who they are,” she said. “There’s been no problems for us at all.”
As a gesture of goodwill, Worsdall, along with other potters, even delivered some gifts to welcome the tenants to the neighborhood when they moved in at the beginning of November.
“There was a lot of negativity around them moving in, so we wanted to let them know not everyone felt that way, so all the potters in here, and there’s quite a few of them, all used their time and donated their energy and made a coffee mug or a tea mug with a little note to the guest saying welcome to the neighborhood, welcome home, and we brought them all over and everyone who moved in got one.”
At the nearby Nail Techniques outlet, the co-owner said while it’s still early on, so far the John Howard Society has been a good neighbor.
“So far it really has gone quite well. We are pretty happy with the way Dani from the John Howard is looking after the place,” Pat McCutcheon said. “We’ve certainly seen an increase in traffic through the complex and we are kind of keeping an eye on that but other than that, we haven’t seen anything that I would say would be super concerning”
A similar supportive housing complex for the homeless is now being proposed on Agassiz Road behind Orchard Plaza.
The difference is that unlike Commerce Avenue, Agassiz Road is a residential neighborhood with a number of condo buildings surrounding the vacant lot, where the building will be constructed if approved by city council.
Many area residents oppose the plans and have been staging protests against it.
A public hearing is set for the Agassiz Road project for January.