The City of Duncan has renewed a temporary-use permit to allow the controversial Village project for homeless people at 610 Truck Rd. to continue for another eight months.
The Village, which is owned by BC Housing and operated by Lookout Housing and Health Society, currently has 34 modular sleeping cabins for homeless people and wraparound services are provided 24 hours a day.
Duncan Coun. Tom Duncan said at the council meeting on Aug. 15 that he spoke to one the organizers of a petition against setting up the Village on Trunk Road last December who lives close to the site, and he said he was very happy with the way it turned out since then.
“He said he has no problems at all with it,” Duncan said.
But council heard from a number of neighbours of the Village at the meeting who haven’t been too impressed with operations there since the city issued its first TUP almost eight months ago.
Robb Armson, site leader at the nearby Sunridge Place seniors’ community, said residents and staff at the facility have experienced numerous challenges from unauthorized people accessing the property since the Village opened.
He said staff, residents and family members have encountered Village residents using drugs on and adjacent to Sunridge property.
“Our vulnerable senior residents and their families report concerns about their safety while outside their suites for shopping and walks,” Armson said.
“When confronted, some trespassers have threatened staff working at night. On one occasion, an intruder threatened staff members with a knife when they asked him to leave the premises.”
Chuck Kurtz, who also lives close to the site, said the Village has been surprising well maintained and its residents well behaved since it opened earlier this year.
“But, as the data shows us, the impacts on the community have been devastating,” he said.
Kurtz said possessions have been stolen from his property and he and his neighbours have been noticing lots of suspicious activities in the neighbourhood.
“I can’t say that I want to see this continue,” Kurtz said.
“There are things going on in the neighbourhood that had not gone on before.”
But, despite the concerns raised, Coun. Jenni Capps moved to renew the temporary use permit.
She said that after hearing about the changes in the lives of the vast majority of people living at the Village since it opened, she can’t in good conscience take it away from them.
“I know there have been successes as well as a lot of challenges, and I hope we continue to work on the challenges, but I hope we’ll continue to see our success stories,” Capps said.
Coun. Garry Bruce, the only member of council to vote against renewing the TUP, said he’s between a rock and a hard place on the issue.
He said he thinks the Village program is great, but placing it on Trunk Road in a residential neighbourhood was catastrophic.
“Village residents are doing well, but there’s been an [increase] in activity in the area,” Bruce said.
“I don’t think we should expect the neighbours to accept what’s going on when they’re afraid to come out of their homes. The neighbours shouldn’t be subjected to this and I won’t support this motion.”
Coun. Duncan said approximately 80 per cent of the people housed at the Village are making great progress in their lives.
He asked why they would jeopardize that by breaking into cars and taking part in other criminal activities.
“My gut feeling is that the people causing the problems don’t live there,” Duncan said.
“The security teams there should work together and identify these people and get the police involved.”
Coun. Bob Brooke said he doesn’t believe the problems in the neighbourhood are the result of the housing that has been created in the Village, but are there because not enough housing has been created.
Mayor Michelle Staples said when this council was elected four years ago, dealing with homelessness in the community was identified as the No. 1 priority.
“We’ve made some differences over the last four years,” she said.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it would be if we took the Village away.”