Monday, October 31, 2011

Bill Bestwick - Supportive Housing

Councillor Bestwick Asks
Council To Reconsider Uplands Site

Follows is a transcript of Councillor Bestwick's address to city council, Oct. 31, 2011,  on the topic of the low barrier housing project on Uplands Drive.

Firstly, I wish to express my gratitude to all members of our community who have participated in the provision of Social Services within the City of Nanaimo by way of email, phone and other methods. 

Secondly, I wish to correct those members of the community who have the notion that I am opposed to Supportive Housing in the City of Nanaimo.  That notion is simply not true or accurate and has been misrepresented through the media, including the social media.

Let me clarify my position.  And this position has been consistent and not ‘flip – flopping’ or ‘pandering for votes’ or ‘popularity’ as has been suggested by some.

I am 100% in favor of supportive housing and have proven this with my votes to support the 18 unit Tillicum Tse Lelum project on 10th Street with the provision to house elders and youth at risk in a medium to high barrier environment.

I am 100% in favor of supportive housing on Wesley Street for 35 – 40 low barrier clients who will have in the immediate vicinity convenient access and disposal to absolutely necessary services, including but not limited to needle exchange program, a methadone clinic, walk in medical services, the Salvation Army kitchen and meal program, the 7/10 Club and outreach services located nearby.

I am 100% in favor of the of the Supportive Housing on the corner of Bowen and Meredith operating as affordable housing with independent living for low income families.  I am equally supportive of the Supportive Housing development within 2 Blocks of the Uplands site, allowing families or less fortunate members of our community to live in affordable housing.

My position with specific respect to the Uplands site has been consistent, dating back to October of 2010 when the Uplands site was introduced and voted on In Camera.  And withheld from public per vue until released to the public from In Camera.  This did not happen until 11 months later (September 20, 2011).  Well before a Concerned Citizens Committee or any committees for or against the project were mobilized. 

My opposition is NOT against Supportive Housing in Nanaimo

My opposition is with regard to the Process, the lack of Public Consultation, the size of the operation and the composition of the clients or tenants as proposed.

Process. The process, for the lack of a better term has not been ‘transparent’ let me elaborate.The Memorandum of Understanding between BC Housing Management Commission and the City of Nanaimo regarding the development of sites for supportive housing states,

26    Public Consultation

BC Housing and the Municipality will work together jointly in delivery of any and all media releases and public information.

Upon approval of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Municipal/Province partnership by Council, the development of the supportive housing will be processed in accordance with the Municipality’s Development and Building Permit Process.

Where required by regular development approval process, the Society will present the proposed Building for consideration at a public information meeting where the public will be able to speak to any issues or concerns they may have.

Neighborhood and community responses as a result of the Public Information meeting will be received by the Municipality and forwarded, with recommendations, to the Sponsor and BC Housing for consideration in development of the Buildings.

Did these Public Information Sessions take place?

As well, the published sites from the original Memorandum of  Understanding did NOT include the Uplands property and therefore the necessity and at the very least the moral obligation to inform the neighborhood through a Public Information Meeting should have occurred. 

Public Consultation.

In June 2009 the City established a Community Engagement Strategy for Nanaimo Supportive Housing Projects.  And I quote, “The proponents, led by the City, wish to develop and implement a Community Engagement Strategy to provide the necessary information and opportunities for dialogue, before and during the development process.

The Strategy  has 7 key guiding principles, of which an Introductory Overview…Neighborhood Meetings and Neighborhood Updates are identified as core to the success of the project through good communication and dialogue.

Was this community engagement strategy offered?

Also, the Nanaimo’s Response to Homelessness Action Plan prepared for the City of Nanaimo in July of 2008 Action 6 – FACILITATE COMMUNITY ACCEPTANCE states,  “Facility community acceptance will be key to the effective implementation of the Action Plan.  Some examples of recommended steps include,

  • Early engagement, in advance of any announcements of sites or funding
  • Communication with the public, neighbors, businesses, agencies and service providers on aspects of plan implementation on an ongoing basis and
  • Establishing good neighborhood agreements..

And finally, Proactive engagement with neighborhoods.  It is recommended that a series of neighborhood meetings be conducted PRIOR to ANY announcements about site locations.

Did this happen?

In closing your Worship, I am convinced that not a single person in this room or citizen of the City of Nanaimo, is NOT in favor of supportive housing, including myself.

However, I am equally convinced that the placement of Buildings, the Size of the operations, the composition of the tenants and the immediate availability of necessary services are necessary for successful operations.

This is not a one size fits all initiative.  All sites are not prepared equally or optimum for the desired outcome.  Consideration for impact on neighbors, business, schools are well documented in all reports for success.  I simply urge Council to reconsider this location, engage the community and minimize the impact

Your Worship, I am certain that if the proposed operation for Uplands was transparent and the end use was a model similar to Tillicum Tse Lelum or Fairway Woods, we would not be in this dilemma.

For those reasons your Worship I wish Council to re-examine alternative sites and/or the scope of the project to be built on the Uplands site,  with the understanding funding is in place from the Province and the site specific size and tenant mix will be known to the neighborhood.

Thank you for your patience and indulgence.


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