Despite a petition with thousands of signatures against a proposed supportive housing facility in Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood, the housing ministry says the facility will proceed as planned.
MLA Norm Letnick presented a petition against the project — signed by 13,342 Kelowna residents — to the B.C. Legislature on Monday afternoon.
“The petitioners request that the development at 130 McCurdy Rd. in Kelowna be ceased until public consultation occurs, perhaps looking to more suitable potential uses for the property,” Letnick said.
He then handed over the petition, which contained more than 2,800 pages of signatures.
Residents had asked the government to consider other uses for the property, such as low-income housing for seniors or students.
They expressed concern that the facility would be located too close to thousands of school-aged children and seniors.
“We hope that they listen because there are other vulnerable populations that need help that won’t place the children and seniors that are in that immediate vicinity at risk,” petition organizer Audra Boudreau told Global News on Sunday.
“In a one-kilometre radius, you’re looking at over 3,000 kids. That’s not right.”
In an email, however, the housing ministry confirmed that the project would continue moving forward, despite the petitioners’ request.
“The entire community benefits when people have safe, supportive homes,” housing minister Selina Robinson said in a statement.
“While I can understand the anxiety felt by some people in the community, our experience opening dozens of these buildings around the province have shown that they deliver positive outcomes for both the residents and the community as a whole.”
New supportive housing projects throughout the province are based on a housing-first model, in which people are able to access housing without any barriers, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said in an email.
“This model has been proven in many communities and involves providing permanent housing and 24/7 wrap-around supports at the same time, rather than the traditional ‘treatment then housing’ approach,” the ministry said.
However, Boudreau criticized the government for failing to fund enough treatment and rehabilitation programs.
“They’re pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into these facilities that aren’t helping anybody because there aren’t any rehab or detox components whatsoever,” she said.