The City of Duncan has extended the temporary use permit at “The Village” on Trunk Road until the end of next May.
The Village is home to 34 people who were experiencing homelessness. It’s staffed and managed by Lookout Housing and Health Society, who provide shelter, as well as support for mental health or substance abuse issues.
After a lengthy debate with members of the public speaking on both sides of the issue, they voted nearly unanimously in favour of extension – with only Councillor Gary Bruce voting against the motion.
Mayor Michelle Staples says this is one small piece of a solution to a larger problem.
“We are losing people every single day,” says Staples. “Not just to drug deaths and overdoses. We’re losing people because there aren’t places for people to live. We’re losing people because people can’t afford to stay here anymore. We’re losing people for a number of reasons and there are many people working to make a difference. This is just one piece of all of that.”
“After hearing about the changes in the lives of the people that live there, I can’t in good conscience take that away,” says Councillor Capps in support of the motion. “I know that if I were to be renovicted, I would not be able to afford market rent in this city that I’ve lived in my whole life […] I know there have been a lot of successes and a lot of challenges. I hope that we can continue to work on those challenges and I hope that we can continue to see those success stories.”
Representatives from Lookout Housing and Health Society spoke at council, saying that 79 per cent of residents participated in employment or pre-employment activities. They mentioned that residents have signed good neighbour and crime free agreements, which if violated results in eviction from the village. Two people have already been evicted under breaching that agreement.
The other side of the issue also spoke, with several neighbours of the village sharing stories of how they have been affected by the first few months of operation at the site.
“I’m between a rock and a hard spot with this. I think the program is great, but sticking it at Trunk Road in the middle of a residential area is catastrophic.” says Councillor Bruce. “What I see with this program is that yes, the residents are doing well, and that’s fine. But it seems to bring a whole down thrust of activity in the neighbourhood.”
Says Bruce, “I look at Duncan now and wow, we’re in a disaster zone, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t want to be part of a council that they look back on in a few years on and think, ‘What the heck were they doing?'”
Site leader of Sunridge Place Seniors Community Robb Armson spoke in opposition of the current situation. Citing a lack of security enforcement in the area and open drug use as a detriment to their resident’s peace of mind.
“All Sunridge is seeking is perimeter walks from security to make sure that people aren’t loitering and hanging out on the premises,” says Armson. “We’re just concerned for the welfare of our residents.”
Mayor and council suggested that the two sides directly connect to ensure a stronger working relationship that could work for both sides.