After listening to opinions about building supportive housing at 1275 Seventh Avenue, Council will vote on the issue on Sept. 26.
A public meeting took place Monday night (Aug. 29) where residents were asked to give their opinion on whether to rezone the property so that a 56-bed supportive housing unit can be built by the hospital.
Those attending were allowed to direct questions towards council, Fraser Health, the Hope and Area Transition Society (HATS) and BC Housing. More than 30 residents made their opinions known to council, with passionate arguments coming from many. Some chose to write in their opinions, others chose to speak during the meeting. A few individuals chose to do both.
Residents for the project reiterated that the homeless population contained members who grew up in Hope and who have strong family ties to the community. They reminded people that the project would help to mitigate mental health problems for the homeless and provide a safe, stigma free environment for people to get the help they need. And, as many pointed out, deaths had already occurred due to people not having proper shelter.
“You got all these professionals saying they can do this. And you have people asking ‘can you?’,” said one resident. “How can you know if you don’t let them try; at some point you have to bite the bullet.”
Those supporting the project said they do not want any more deaths to occur; many who died were known to the community and were even friends with some of the people in attendance. They worried that forcing the project to relocate again would cause unnecessary delay.
Residents against the project cited concerns of the location being near the hospital and Tillicum Centre. They had worries over not enough workers, especially doctors and nurses, for the building. Questions were also asked about security for the building and whether there would be enough people to fill the 56 beds.
“This is a Band-aid,” says Coun. Dusty Smith. “And this community is having a hard time accepting that Band-aid. If we keep Band-aiding the situation we aren’t helping. We’re just creating more problems.”
Representatives for Fraser Health and HATS assured residents that they had enough staff and that the location was well suited for the project. Frank Tick, from BC Housing, also reminded people that their supportive housing does not have security due to it being unnecessary for the individuals they house.
“This is not an institution. This is not an incarceration,” says Tick, adding “there will be enough folks to fill the beds.”
HATS also re-stated that the individuals who use their facilities want to stay there and want to get better.
Housing and homelessness is a concern in Hope and many residents have a strong opinion on the issue. In March, representatives told the Standard that Hope has around 100 people without homes. This number is believed to have risen throughout the months.
The plan for the three-storey building includes 56 beds, 15 shelter beds, and involves a 20-year land lease. It also includes two floors of apartment units, with lounge spaces, medical beds, offices, kitchens and the shelter beds on the main floor. Residents of the building would pay rent and a meal program would be included to ensure food security.
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