Marpole residents protest location of temporary housing for homeless
Published Monday, November 6, 2017 8:48AM PST
Last Updated Monday, November 6, 2017 10:16AM PST
Dozens of residents of a Vancouver neighbourhood attended a rally Monday morning to show their opposition to a project providing temporary housing to the city's homeless.
The City of Vancouver plans to build 78 modular housing units in the area of West 57th Avenue and Cambie Street, but some Marpole residents take issue with the location.
The proposed site for the three-storey buildings is located across from three schools and next to an assisted living facility for adults with disabilities, a nursing home and a community centre for seniors.
The housing units would be available for the next five years, as part of a joint plan between the city and provincial governments to provide 600 temporary housing units in Vancouver in modular buildings on underused or vacant sites.
Units in the buildings are meant to be used by people who will transition to long-term solutions. More than a dozen of the 250-square-foot suites will be wheelchair accessible.
The two buildings on the southwest corner of 650 West 57th Ave. will also contain amenity space and laundry. The first of the two is expected to be ready in early January.
It was announced late last month by the mayor, and some residents say they only had a few days' notice that it was in the works.
About 100 people showed up to protest Monday morning, and a handful attended in support of the project. Those who were supportive were shouted at by some of the opposing protestors.
Demonstrators carried red signs reading "Kid's safety first (sic)" and "Our voices matter."
Sally McLellan, a resident of the area against the development, said she read about it in the media the day it was announced publicly.
"I believe every community needs to support people who are homeless, who have mental health issues, who are addicted – we all need to help. I was just surprised that I found out in the newspaper, and I thought, 'How come I live in this community and I haven't heard anything prior to this?'"
She said later that night she received an information card in English only, distributed in a diverse community, about information sessions being held this month.
"I was a little upset. It felt very sneaky. It felt like the city was really trying to sneak one over on us," McLellan told CTV News.
She said her main concern is the proximity to schools, though she understands the arguments made by those who support it.
"People are not violent and drug addicts are not violent and people need help and support, but I don't think that putting it across the street from our schools and giving us three weeks' notice, four weeks' notice to construction is the way to go about it," she said.
"I think the city is responsible for creating this hysteria… People don't understand what mental illness means and they don't understand how this home is going to be run, and so we're not willing to take that risk across the street from our schools."
Another protester, Janice Ho, said she was concerned by a lack of consultation with residents of the area.
"The decision puts our children at extraordinary risks and possibly lifelong trauma if anything were to happen to them," Ho said in an email.
"We just cannot take chances and put our kids at such extraordinary and unfair risks."
But the mayor said he's convinced the project will bring positive change.
"We've done this time and time again, dozens of sites around the city," he said when the project was announced in October.
"Whenever there's been problems, they've been addressed right away. These sites have been very successful, so we're confident we'll have good results here and good homes for people who desperately need them."
In a series of posts on Twitter Monday, Gregor Robertson also said he expects the plan to help people as soon as it opens in January, and that the units in Marpole will fill a "critical gap."
It's not acceptable for people to be sleeping on the streets. Modular homes will help people immediately in n'hoods across the city #vanpoli— Gregor Robertson (@MayorGregor) November 6, 2017
With 1k social housing units opening now-2018, 600 temp modular homes will fill critical gap to support our most vulnerable #vanpoli— Gregor Robertson (@MayorGregor) November 6, 2017
For those looking to learn more about the project, the city is hosting three community information sessions this week. The first is Monday night at the Langara Golf Course starting at 6 p.m.
Those who can't make it Monday can attend a session at the course club house Tuesday or Wednesday at 6 p.m., but are warned that seating is limited. Listings for the events posted on the city's website showed seats were already filled for all three, though the option to join a waitlist was available for Monday's session.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim