‘No transparency’: Neighbours worried about new North Park homeless facility voice concerns

'No transparency': Neighbours worried about new North Park homeless facility voice concerns
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The debate around a new facility in North Park designed to helping the homeless continues Tuesday night.

The City of Victoria announced June 18 that a new centre will be opening in Victoria’s community of North Park with wrap-around community-based services to address the risks and impacts of homelessness at the intersection of Dowler and Princess.

The meeting is being hosted by the North Park Community Association and will be a forum for residents to get direct information from health professionals, the mayor and the site operator.

“I think our biggest concern is the lack of process. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know when it’s going to open,” said Josh Montgomery, who lives half a block away from the proposed site.

Montgomery says he was shocked to find out about the plans near his home in a press release. Instead of being offered facts, he says the lack of communication from the city has left room for rumours.

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“It does cause misinformation and that’s part of the problem. If this is something with good intentions that is good for the community then that clearly could have been communicated. That didn’t happen, so everybody starts assuming the worst,” said Montgomery.

The worst, Montgomery says, is that the camping and chaos from Pandora could transfer metres away from where his kids play.

“We’ve had no assurances that there would be no overnight camping. And that fence line along Island Farms on Dowler would be a perfect place if you needed to move 200 tents somewhere,” said Montgomery. “The potential for a site like this is that it could destroy a neighbourhood if it’s not properly operated and the right processes are in place.”

Victoria’s Mayor Marianne Alto says those processes are very much in place.

“There is a clause that does specifically require one of the thresholds is that the operator is responsible for ensuring the safety within and outside the facility, including a requirement to navigate a really robust relationship with the neighbours, and that all of their concerns are attended to. The same thing exists at Dowler,” said Alto.

“They will ensure that their relationship with their neighbours is positive, that it’s inclusive, responsive…They’re responsible for what happens on their site and immediately around their site.”

SOLID Outreach is the operator, a non-profit that’s had to navigate community outreach several times in the community of North Park. The mayor says the organization has her utmost trust.

“They’re good because they put in the work, and that’s what we expect of them now,” said Alto.

SOLID Outreach says it will offer daytime services like access to housing, treatment and other support services like food or help getting medical care. People will be allowed to use substances inside, but the mayor says strongly, it’s not officially a consumption site.

“Let’s be clear. It is not an overdose prevention site it is not a consumption site,” said Alto.

According to Island Health “Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS) and Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS) are welcoming locations where people can use substances under the supervision of trained staff. As part of health care services, staff in these locations monitor for possible drug poisoning and provide rapid intervention if necessary.”

The meeting Tuesday between the North Park Community Association, residents, the mayor and SOLID Outreach will be a conversation that aims to clear up some of the misinformation and put neighbours at ease.

Alto says the desperate need for facilities like his, however, is something that’s not up for debate.

“These are now essential services, you don’t negotiate essential services. You put them where they’re needed,” said Alto.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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