Residents in the Harwood area say they have been left in the dark over their new neighbours.
The John Howard Society hopes to have a 10-bed substance abuse facility for men open by Nov. 1 in the 2500 block of 43rd Avenue. There will also be separate rental suites for men who are not addicted.
“We’re not saying these gentlemen don’t need services but it’s the location,” said one resident who asked not to be identified.
“How do you put people with criminal offenses within a few feet of at-risk citizens — children and seniors?”
Neighbours are upset that there was no advance notice from the John Howard Society or the City of Vernon.
“There’s no trust. We aren’t getting any answers or being empathized with,” said the woman.
“It fits the zoning but that’s not good enough. There should have been, at the very minimum, a good neighbour agreement.”
The woman says there are concerns that the drug trade may move into the area and there could be increased theft and an impact on personal safety.
“What happens if someone relapses and needs a fix?” she said, adding that there are schools, day care centres and seniors care homes within a short distance.
“The community he will offend against is ours.”
City officials stand by the process followed.
“They are not changing the use of the property,” said Dale Rintoul, a planner.
“There is no rezoning so no public hearing is necessary.”
Rintoul says the city is aware of the planned treatment activities.
“Zoning cannot discriminate over the occupants of the dwelling.”
Barb Levesque, John Howard executive director, says the site was selected because of the zoning and the proximity of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“As they move along in recovery, they must be connected to the community,” she said.
“We want them to volunteer and be upstanding members of the community.”
Levesque insists that the facility is not a halfway house but she admits some of the people wanting to abandon drugs and alcohol have criminal records.
“That’s the same in any apartment building. It’s about addiction and not crime,” she said.
“We want people committed to sobriety to come together.”
The agreement to purchase the property hasn’t closed yet and renovations are needed before the facility opens.
“We felt we had time to consult with the community but it got ahead of us,” said Levesque of neighbours’ complaints that they weren’t consulted.
An information meeting will be held Sept. 6 at the Vernon Alliance Church at 7 p.m.
“We want people to truly understand and for the rumours to come to a rest,” said Levesque, adding that there will also be a neighbourhood council to address issues.