Even though the meeting is right in the middle of their supper hour, hundreds of Rutland residents line up along the sidewalk to question BC Housing on a recovery house for McCurdy Road.
A good guesstimate is that there are about 1,000 residents who cycle through Rutland Centennial Hall and are let in, by security, only four at a time.
This, however, gives Rutland organizers lots of time to get signatures on petitions and to encourage contact with a new website, called startcomplaining.ca.
As residents leave, they tell others waiting to enter, that the meeting is mainly a collection of BC Housing posters touting the benefits of recovery housing. Indeed, the meeting is criticized by many for being short on specifics.
There is an ominous security company, and even an RCMP presence inside and outside the hall including an unmarked police van. Presumably, it is there to haul overzealous protesters away.
Who called for this unprecedented security, and who paid for it?
Many weary residents repeat again and again that they realize the need for supportive housing but that 300 metres away from 2,500 young, school-age children, with impressionable minds, is simply the wrong location.
As I circulate, I hear, “How many other supportive facilities are that close to public schools?”
“Who finally decides that this is an appropriate site?”
“Will residents be able to continue drug and alcohol use?”
Despite being supported by City of Kelowna staff and people from Journey Home, there are still many unanswered questions. Residents reiterate many times ... wrong location.
I also hear, many times, that BC Housing deflects the hard-location question by trying to make residents feel guilty, suggesting that they do not support recovery housing.
Sorry, but it is the wrong location, next to thousands of students. That is the issue.
After attending for one-and-a-half hours, I note there is not one single local politician in attendance. No mayor. No councillors. No member of Parliament.
No member of the Legislative Assembly. No school board trustees. Surely, some school trustees have concerns for recovery houses in school, drug free zones.
Time to speak out.
There is no public question-and-answer period, nor any summary of how the facility would be run.
Politicians do have a responsibility to make it clear to residents how these decisions are being made. When questioned, a BC Housing rep could not answer, who makes the final decision and how.
Residents would now be well off to lobby local MLA Norm Letnick and get him to clearly state the process for approval. The email addresses of all MLAs is freely available on the Internet.
Never have I seen a major local issue where so many local politicians have been so silent. It is time for our elected officials to step up, join the rest of the “complainers,” sign the petitions, lobby, and speak out.
I am sure that is what they get paid for.
Reg Volk is a retired public educator. To contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.