Not even the prospect of a $450,000 grant was enough Monday to entice Summerland council to take a crack at opening a transitional housing facility in the community.
Council voted 7-0 against a staff recommendation to apply for the cash to fix up the former SADI youth centre so it could be reconfigured to offer temporary places to stay for individuals and families at risk of homelessness.
“The last conversation we had on the SADI building was quite extensive, and I think after a long debate around the council table, it was agreed upon the building should be demolished, and yet here we are today. I’m quite puzzled,” said Coun. Marty Van Alphen.
“To invest or even contemplate investing this kind of money in a building that may get torn down in a five- or 10-year period… absolutely baffles me. I’m not against transitional housing, but I would definitely like to have a conversation.”
Van Alphen suggested that conversation include the public, plus churches and service groups.
But it was a service group – the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre – that put forward the proposal for transitional housing in the district-owned building at 9117 Prairie Valley Rd. that served as a youth centre for 21 years before its non-profit operator went dark in 2019.
The SFBRC wanted to turn the lights back on by converting the facility into a temporary housing facility with a dormitory-style shelter for men, plus two separate suites for families.
However, with an April 16 application deadline for the provincial grant program, there were still too many unknowns for council’s liking, including the cost to make the building fit for occupation – a price roughly estimated at $510,000 by district staff – and whether the public would even support such a facility if and when the time came to permit it.
Although she later voted against applying for the grant, Mayor Toni Boot initially urged council to at least take a shot at it.
“While I understand – and certainly we’ve all been getting correspondence and phone calls about concerns in the public, and I certainly understand those concerns – I think it might be a little premature (to kill the idea), because this might never happen,” said Boot.
“It’s just a possibility to apply for this funding… and then we can continue the conversation from there if we actually get the grant money.”
Others, though, worried council’s decision would have had broader ramifications and without the benefit of detailed study because the SFBRC’s proposal was only made public last week.
“It certainly feels like this is a decision about a proposal for a long-term solution, and that raises many valid questions, I think, in the community,” said Coun. Doug Holmes.
“There’s a saying that planning is best done in advance, and that planning hasn’t really happened. I really think we have a responsibility to hear from the community.”