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Friday, May 13, 2011

More Supportive Again

Below is the second presentation I made on the Bowen Rd. Rezoning follwed by more news stories and letters, from both sides. If the link is directly to a story from the daily news you can read comments made about the story otherwise I ended up taking the links from Canada.Com. Was just the easiest way. One really should read the comments, a great feature of many web based newspapers, they can be both enlightening and scary.

Re: Rezoning
BYLAW NO. 4000.506

Gordon W. Fuller
604 Nicol St.
Nanaimo, BC
V9R 4T9

To clarify earlier comments from earlier presenters:
Columbian Centre Society does have a 10 person capacity but they also have 5 such buildings on the same site.
Warmlands is I believe 20 – 24 supportive housing units plus an additional low barrier shelter.
Through a Blue Lens (documentary) and the comment “is this the type of neighbourhood you want to create?” This is about the Downtown Eastside, an area even former mayor Larry Campbell has stated was in a large part created b the concentration of social services of all kinds. This is in no way related to what Nanaimo’s Homeless Action Plan proposes.
Addiction or the use/abuse of drugs & alcohol is a complicated issue. You heard earlier from Wallace Malay, myself and others that have experienced it and moved forward. There is not one simple solution that fits all. We need a variety of services to meet the need of a variety of people. This is proposed in Nanaimo’s Action Plan.

Honourable Mayor and Council.

I am in support of the rezoning for reasons that will become clear.

In over a decade of paying attention to council issues I do not recall ever having seen an instance where a public hearing has spanned 4 sessions. This is in my opinion not a bad thing as I believe everyone, no matter their opinion, has a right to be heard. It does however illustrate the failings in the communication process with the neighbourhood about the importance of Supportive Social Housing and Nanaimo’s Response to Homelessness Action Plan. I am reminded of the saying “you reap what you sow” and council certainly has been bearing the brunt of what one could consider a bad harvest.

Key to Nanaimo’s strategy is Action 6 of its plan; FACILITATE COMMUNITY ACCEPTANCE.
I quote, “Facilitating community acceptance will be key to the effective implementation of the Action Plan.
Examples of proposed steps include:
• Early engagement, in advance of any announcements of sites or funding;
• Developing a locational plan that disperses housing and services;
• Communication with the public, neighbours, businesses, agencies and service
providers on aspects of plan implementation on an ongoing basis; and
• Establishing good neighbour agreements.
Sure we had a public open house when the Homeless Action Plan was developed but we all know that these types of open houses do not draw a huge crowd. Yes in 2010 the proposed site on Dufferin was brought to a meeting in the Hospital area but it was couched within a meeting publicized to be primarily around parking issues, the housing only being brought up at the meeting. Had the public known what was actually on the agenda I am sure far more people would have attended.

Were these “communication with the public, neighbours, businesses, agencies and service providers on aspects of plan implementation on an ongoing basis? “ Technically yes, in reality not. If council and city staff has not already started to sow the seeds with the proposed housing for the North End then I fear you will continue to reap an unsavoury harvest.

Tonight I am not going to bombard you, or creator forbid bore you, with a lot of research. Much has been said, and research provided, by those on both sides of this issue. Some is accurate, anyone can find results on the inter web to support their particular opinion, and some information is outright false. An example of the latter being the alleged stabbing by one resident of another at Warmlands in Duncan. This did not happen.

Fear has been the weapon of many of those opposed; i.e. supportive housing will bring an influx of drug dealers and prostitutes to the area; there will be needles left all over the place and crime will increase. None of this is borne out by fact. The reality is that to some degree, as has been stated by numerous of those opposed, much of this is already in existence in the area as it is in most areas of the city. I feel for the young lady who spoke last week about finding a syringe but it does illustrate what I just said.

Will the implementation of the proposed Supportive Social Housing put a stop to it? I doubt it but I also doubt that it will contribute to more of the same. Using the Balmoral Hotel as an example I can categorically state that it has contributed to an improvement of the area since CMHA took it over. Yes there are still problems in the neighbourhood but they are in no way attributable to the Balmoral and are in no way of the extent they were when the Balmoral was an unsupervised SRO building.

Most street level drug users are ambivalent and want nothing to do with any perceived authority such as the 24 hour staffing and ongoing support that will be in place in the proposed housing. Building this housing will however give some of these folk a safe option when they do start to contemplate change.

From my personal experiences, 25 years, with homelessness as well as alcohol & drug abuse and from my experience of the last 15 years working with people currently facing these issues I know that the supportive housing being proposed in Nanaimo has the potential to save lives. The reality is also that this housing will not be strictly used by tenants with mental illness and addictions, but will house a mix of tenants as mentioned in the Homeless Action Plan and I quote “A mix or balance of tenant characteristics improves the fit into the building and community”

One comment made to council last week in the realm of a veiled threat, others more blatant have been given, is this. “Political will is followed by peoples will and you should remember that.” All I ask is that you remember that each and every one of you also represents the disenfranchised; the homeless and those with addictions.

The ideas being brought forward about abstinence based housing and treatment centres are certainly needed, not just in Nanaimo but elsewhere as well. Some of this is already taking place and more is in the works. What we have now is funding for supportive housing, not these other things. I can guarantee to those in the audience that once this housing is built we will be looking for funding for many of these other services.

I encourage people to read A Response to Homelessness in Nanaimo: A Housing First Approach Relevant Best Practices as well as Nanaimo’s Response to Homelessness Action Plan, both available on the City of Nanaimo website.

In my last presentation I offered an option that I hope will be seriously considered by council and that I believe can meet the needs of all sides in the debate. Rezone this property and then sell it to a developer for mixed use commercial and housing. Take the proceeds and purchase one or two properties in other areas of Nanaimo for Supportive Housing and make sure that communication is started immediately with the public, neighbours, and businesses in these areas.

I also want to offer one more suggestion limit the sizes of the buildings on all properties, including the one already proposed on Dufferin Crescent, to 26 units. 26 units is more manageable and in line with many other Supportive Housing initiatives in other cities across North America including Vancouver and Toronto. It works. As a community we share responsibility for all those in the community and collectively we need to move forward with the provision of safe housing to those most in need.

Lastly I just want to say that the neighbourhood has certainly espoused some very colourful and negative opinions of the disenfranchised. I would urge them to recognize that these are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. Very likely to the very residents, your neigbours, who already live in the area. Some may even have been students at Quarterway. None were likely influenced by housing except in that which they grew up.

I also want to restate my invitation for anyone wishing to come down to the 7-10 Club. I will be more than happy to introduce you to some of those who will benefit from this housing.


May 14
Low barrier housing stance is principled

By Derek Spalding, The Daily News May 12, 2011
Misinformation fuels opposition to housing plan

The Daily News May 12, 2011
Council can't waiver on low barrier plan

By Sandra Shaw, The Daily News May 12, 2011
'11th hour' consultation on housing is not enough

By Derek Spalding, Daily News May 7, 2011
Public hearing shut down after going well into the night another round set for Wednesday

Published: Saturday, May 07, 2011
Time to dispel confusion about housing plan

The Daily News May 6, 2011
Real dialogueneeded over social housing

By Bob Winkler, The Daily News May 4, 2011
Housing plan doesn't put Nanaimo families first

Published: Friday, April 29, 2011
Sell one city property to upport housing plan

By Derek Spalding, Daily News April 23, 2011
Gruelling debate over social housing plan goes to third night

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