Neighbours of a proposed supportive housing project slated for Dogwood Street are circulating a petition opposing it but the mayor says the property meets many of the needs the city and BC Housing identified as necessary for a supportive housing facility.
“I think the general consensus is we understand that there is a need for it, we just think it’s the wrong place,” said Nicki MacKenzie, one of petition authors.
At the end of July, BC Housing announced 50 new units of permanent supportive housing are coming to Campbell River as part of a partnership between the province through BC Housing and the City of Campbell River.
The project will be located at 580 Dogwood Street and provide homes for people living at the former Rose Bowl Restaurant, which was purchased as bridge housing by the province earlier in July, as well as other local people who are experiencing homelessness.
The new facility will be operated by the Vancouver Island Mental Health Society, and staff will be onsite 24/7 providing outreach services, skills training and meal preparation. Health referrals will also be provided.
But neighbours of the proposed site at 580 Dogwood St. are circulating a paper petition and an online petition to halt the project. The petitioners say they are concerned about the risk to children the completed facility poses, a potential increase in crime, the danger of needles and condoms littering the area around the facility, as well as the impact on property values.
There are three schools within a three-kilometre radius of the facility and that will create the risk of needlestick injuries, unknown people on the path of children walking to school.
The online petition says, “The people with children in our neighbourhood (which is everyone) are horrified and fear their children will be in danger.”
The petitioners also feel there are better locations for the facility, they suggest the former Paramount night club on Ironwood St., which is currently for sale, would be better.
“The Paramount lot is great because it’s close to Service BC, social services, the methadone clinic all that stuff is just really close proximity in that area,” McKenzie said.
The petitioners said they have seen these facilities installed in down-Island communities and the accompanying crime and drug use and litter associated with them.
In a request for comment from Mayor Andy Adams, his office forwarded to the Mirror a response he provided to an unnamed resident living close to the proposed project.
The mayor said that city’s efforts to meet housing needs in the community in conjunction with BC Housing is missing a supportive housing facility that could provide “a safe controlled facility with 24/7 supervision and counselling services for those actively wanting to make significant improvements in their lives.”
For the last two years the city and BC Housing have been looking for a property that took into consideration “location, adequate size, servicing capabilities, ownership (if it would have to be purchased or leased) and access to amenities and services.”
The 580 Dogwood site is City of Campbell River-owned property and tentatively scheduled for a future Fire Hall at some point. B.C. Housing expressed interest in the site due to the proximity to major bus lines, shopping amenities, health and social services, and being within a community neighbourhood, the mayor said. The proposed location for the northwest corner of the property was originally considered, however, Council directed staff to consider the southeast portion fronting Dogwood to minimize the direct adjacency of existing neighbours.
Meanwhile, the Strathcona Community Health Network (SCHN), Laichwiltach Family Life Society, Sasamans Society, Wei Wai Kum First Nation and the North Island Metis Association issued a jointly-signed letter to the Campbell River Mirror about the supportive housing project in which it says the arguments that the residents’ petition is based on have been refuted by research.
“Proximity to well-managed affordable housing does not decrease property value,” the the letter says. “Affordable housing does not negatively impact crime rates. Further, because the project receives public funding, stringent building standards and management practices are undertaken. The residents of the new building will be selected through an application process, have access to 24/7 social supports and are already residents of this community. Creating opportunities to increase equity within the community should be celebrated, rather than further stigmatized.”
Affordable housing benefits everyone and organisations in Campbell River have been working very hard to increase housing investment in our community after years of under-investments that have negatively impacted our community, the SCHN, et. al., letter says.
“Affordable housing is a basic human right. Dozens of community organisations, housing non-profits and Indigenous groups within the Strathcona region have been working towards meeting this need and we unequivocally support the building and process of the Supportive Housing project at 480 Dogwood street in Campbell River,” the letter says.