Local community of Rutland opposes the McCurdy supportive housing development.
Homelessness has been a growing problem in Kelowna with a “23% increase in the past two years,” according to the Kelowna Daily Courier. The length of an individual’s stay at local homeless shelters has also increased in the past few years, jumping from 192 days in 2016 to 241 days in 2018.
The Journey Home Strategy, Kelowna’s five-year plan to address homelessness, stresses a commitment towards ensuring “a coordinated and easy to access system of care for those in Kelowna who have lost, or are at risk of losing their homes.” The strategy has three important goals: end chronic and episodic homelessness, introduce measures to prevent homelessness in the first place, and implement a coordinated systems approach to homelessness.
Similar to the Journey Home Society, The Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna has stressed the importance and need for further housing and homelessness services in Kelowna. CMHA Kelowna, the Journey Home society, and other community organizations have stated that they are striving towards what is known as Housing First policies to combat the homelessness crisis.
The Government of Canada states that “Housing First involves moving people experiencing homelessness —particularly people experiencing chronic homelessness—rapidly from the street or emergency shelters into stable and long-term housing, with supports.” This strategy has led to Kelowna’s recent increase in Supportive Housing Projects such as this summer’s very controversial McCurdy development in Rutland.
Responding to the need for more supportive housing in Kelowna, BC Housing stated that the new supportive housing project in Rutland “will provide safe and secure homes for people experiencing homelessness, as well as young people who are struggling to find suitable housing.”
Unfortunately, the local community of Rutland did not meet the building with as much enthusiasm. Community members have aired their grievances online through social media and news media and took to the streets with multiple organized site petitions and a formal project petition that collected over 15,000 signatures. According to Global News, the supportive housing facility has caused such large community concern due to its close proximity to several schools and the facility’s designation as “wet.”
Wet facilities do not require people to abstain from drugs or alcohol before moving in and are considered low barrier facilities. Previous UBCO Professor Carey Doberstein commented on a similar supportive housing project, Agassiz Road, in January 2019 stating that low barrier housing residents “are more likely to maintain housing and more likely to establish independence, which is fundamentally what we should care about when taxpayers are funding these services.”
Despite messages from supportive housing opponents, the McCurdy supportive housing development is under construction. However, the facility has been changed from a designated wet facility to a dry facility. Meaning, residents will have to be further along in their recovery journey to be housed.
The fight against supportive housing continues on Facebook group sites such as Rutland for Safe Neighbourhoods and many of those who were strictly opposed to the McCurdy development remain up in arms and ready to fight against the next proposal that comes their way.