The placement of a new drug and alcohol treatment centre in Hammond was a point of contention at a recent District of Maple Ridge public hearing.
The hearing was part of a rezoning process, which would allow the residential property to be used as a site of the treatment centre. It would include two lots at 20581 and 20591 Maple Crescent, and the latter land already has an institutional zoning.
The Innervisions Recovery Society is partnering with B.C. Housing in the 41-bed project, and partial funding has been supplied by the federal government through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
The first phase of the project would see construction of a facility with 17 beds. There is already 18 units on the site, in a building known as Maple Crescent Lodge, and a second phase would that building town down and replaced by a 24-bed facility. It would attach to the building constructed in the first phase. There is no timeline for phase two.
Innervisions already operates Hannah House at the corner of Laity Street and Dewdney Trunk Road, which is a treatment centre with a 60-day drug and alcohol recovery program.
Hammond resident Margaret Ickert said she objects to having the institution in a residential neighbourhood, and emphasized her objection is not “based on people.”
“Even if this facility was for Nobel laureates, I would still be standing here,” she said from the podium. “It doesn’t fit.”
She said Hammond is a long-neglected neighbourhood.
“Residents are fed up.”
Ickert also expressed concerns on the basis of limited parking. She asked council to consider what use the building would have if Innervisions was no longer operating there.
Hannah House director Joanna Schofield addressed concerns the building may be abandoned if not successful. She said Innervisions has been running facilities for 22 years.
“This is not a fly-by-night organization,” she said, adding the non-profit “has helped thousands and thousands of people.”
She noted that while in treatment, participants are not permitted to have a vehicle or visit family or friends outside the centre, so traffic is generally limited to staff members. She said many people don’t know a women’s centre is also located there, because it causes such little disruption in the neighbourhood.
Schofield added that the zoning “institution” probably gives people the wrong impression of what the facility will look like.
“It’s not a huge, mammoth, grey hospital building.”
Sandy Macdougall said he is not opposed to this project, but expressed concerns that Hammond “has lost the heritage character of the area.”
He was echoed by Eric Phillips, past president of the Hammond Community Association, who said Hammond residents are upset that heritage buildings are being torn down or falling into disrepair.
Maple Crescent Lodge is not included in the inventory of heritage buildings.
Hammond resident Dana Greening said Innervisions has not been forthcoming with answers about its future plans. Residents were told the institution would be for 17 beds, only to later learn the final number would be more than 40.
District development manager Chuck Goddard noted he asked the builders to incorporate more heritage aspects into their building design, which they did, but budget limitations meant the changes were “not as much as I would have liked.”
Schofield said Innervisions bought the Maple Crescent Lodge in “horrific” condition, and has “turned it into something absolutely beautiful.”
“Innervisions has already contributed to that neighbourhood.”
Bill Nicholson, a staff member from Innervisions, said neighbours of facilities get staff phone numbers in case there are problems, but there rarely are. Businesses in the area get to know and befriend their clients.
“People early in recovery want to do well, and they’re assets to their community,” said Nicholson.
“I hope the community gets behind it [the institution], and backs us up,” he said.
Several former clients gave testimonials about their life-saving experiences with Innervisions.
The rezoning bylaw will be before council at a future public meeting.