Oct 11, 2012 / 10:44 am
A new sober living house is set to open in Vernon by the end of the year and will be run by the John Howard Society.
The property will house two buildings, one of which will be occupied by up to 10 men working themselves through the early stages of sobriety with the help of a trained addictions counsellor and 12-step meetings.
The other building will be for men who are sober and looking for a place to stay or a place to live where there are no drugs or alcohol allowed.
“I think it’s a great project for the community,” says Vernon city councillor Brian Quiring.
“It’s a good location, it’s pretty close to the alliance church and it’s an existing multi-family building. I think it’s a great use for that property and I think the John Howard Society is going to do a great job running it and managing it and I think they’re doing a lot to alleviate the concerns of the community.”
The facility will be located in the Harwood area of Vernon on 43rd Avenue. This location used to house two apartment buildings which will be renovated before the facility opens in December.
“You just have to turn on the TV or open up the newspaper for somebody that has been in rehab, so I think there is a need for it in society in general,” says Quiring, who gives credit to the John Howard Society for spearheading this project.
“For one thing, they’re a society that doesn’t have an overabundance of money, so I don’t believe that they’re going to pursue something that they don’t feel is needed. Substance abuse is something that is prevalent in all communities and you add that up with a tough economy and substance abuse goes up, so I certainly think that based on the economic climate that it’s probably something that is becoming more and more of a problem.”
Some community members voiced their concerns about the sober house at a public forum last month which was attended by councillor Catherine Lord.
She says there were concerns expressed by a number of people, most of which had to do with safety. “They were concerned about their children’s safety and having people that were not sober in the neighbourhood,” says Lord.
“But I think that the executive director (Barbara Levesque) did a very good job of explaining everything and there were a number of people that talked in favour of the facility.”
Levesque agrees that in the beginning, there were a lot of concerns, and she says people have every right to know what’s happening in their neighbourhood.
“There were some misconceptions about what kinds of things we were going to be doing on the property. And we’re working really hard with the community to clarify any questions they may have as well as dispel the rumours and the myths about addiction and about recovery,” says Levesque.
“I think we’ve come a long way since that meeting in September. What’s happened is with our support there has been a neighbourhood council formed – the social planning council of Vernon is leading that – and this neighbourhood council will draw up a good neighbour agreement that the neighbourhood council and the John Howard society will sign. That will clarify even further what our responsibilities in the community will be and what are (the) expectations of our neighbours as well.”
Levesque calls the agreement a mutually beneficial process for resolving disputes and its goal will be to create good neighbours. It will feature guidelines for communication and problem solving and basically lays out how everyone will live together in the same neighbourhood.
“A good neighbour agreement can also be a community building tool in that it creates opportunity for celebration for the things that go right and recognition of successes in building a community of sobriety,” says Levesque.
The current zoning allows for this type of facility, so there are no applications that need to be approved or voted on by council. The group took ownership of the property last week and renovations began on Tuesday.
If all goes according to plan, they expect to be open and accepting residents on December 1.
--by Ragnar Haagen
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