Protesting supportive home

While BC Housing hosted an open house at the Ramada Hotel Thursday night for a proposed supportive housing development, dozens of people stood outside protesting.

The development would see an additional 52 units of supportive housing built at 2025 Agassiz Rd., just west of Orchard Plaza shopping centre.

While there are currently 248 supportive housing units at six different developments in Kelowna, BC Housing says additional housing for the homeless is desperately needed, with 500 people waitlisted.

Many neighbours of the proposed development were out at Thursday night's open house, pushing back against the project.

“You've got little old ladies with their purse and their walker, and they have to walk past this building to go to the store or get their hair cut,” said Don Larsen, a resident of a nearby seniors-only apartment. “They're scared to death they won't be able to leave their place because this is next door.”

He says the project is needed, but putting it near hundreds of seniors is wrong.

BC Housing spokesperson Ann Howard says they haven't seen an increase in crime around other supportive housing developments, but Larsen is skeptical.

“Of course they're going to say that. I don't believe that at all, they're paid to say that,” Larsen said.

Angie Lohr of Kelowna's H.O.P.E Outreach also attended Thursday's open house. She experienced addiction and homelessness in Winnipeg and Calgary through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, and she now helps women living on the streets.

“We're losing people, so it has to be things like this (housing project) to at least let people come in to that entry level of being hooked into the services, having a roof over their head and giving them an opportunity to recover,” Lohr said. “If you don't have a place to call home, you have no hope.”

Lohr said two homeless friends died Wednesday while using drugs.

“The only reason those two people died is because there is nowhere to go, and that really breaks my heart,” she said. “The only reason I recovered is because I had ... the supportive housing, I had the counsellors, I had the community behind me. You go to detox here, and it's only five days and you're shown the door.

“People want Leon and everything to clean up but they're not willing to help in that process. If we have supportive housing, if we've got the tools to give these people, that would make a huge difference, and cost the taxpayers way less money than what we're spending at the moment.”

The proposed development is expected to go before Kelowna city council in early 2019, and Howard says if things go smoothly, she sees the doors opening on the project next fall.

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