Surrey city hall is going to have a couple of big fights on their hands tonight, one of them taking the form of a public hearing that gives Newton residents the chance to voice their concerns over an unwanted and controversial rehab facilitythat The John Volken Foundation wants to build in the heart of residential Newton.
I’m happy to report that the prospect of this Welcome Home facility has been getting much press locally,that prompted the Province editorial: Social Load Too Heavy to Bear. Considering how long, and how often I have written about the numerable social problems and ongoing degradation of this family neighbourhood, it was a winning moment. It meant someone is listening to the residents here, even if it isn’t city hall. This blog post details the ongoing struggles of what residents here in Newton are dealing with: http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/newton-neighbourhoods-still-rife-with-prostitutesdrugs-and-crime-despite-citys-newton-revitalization-plan/
One of the local Surrey papers, The Leader,also gave some space to this issue, but unfortunately, they failed to mention the facility will take court-ordered offenders, failed to mention that the foundation refuses to provide documentation to their alleged success, and failed to mention that if someone drops out, they are out with nothing. That is what is worrying locals, as detailed in this excerpt from a fantastic piece by Stephanie Ryan, titled : Surrey council shouldn’t ignore concerns about Welcome Home recovery home . I’ve highlighted the particularly troubling concerns voiced by residents who claim the city has been planning this all along.(It is also interesting to note that John Volken is a member of the Mayors Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety,however, he doesn’t seem to be willing to provide any statistical information as to the success of his other facility, which seems to be at odds with his position on the mayors committees)
“Many people in Surrey are wondering what it is about the proposed Welcome Home facility that city council wants so badly that it would ignore its own planning and development department’s recommendations.
The controversy will come to a head on Monday (October 5), when the proposal goes to a public hearing.
Welcome Home is being billed as a therapeutic community that will aim to equip recovering drug and alcohol addicts, as well as court-ordered offenders, with the life and job skills they need.
The proposal is being put forward by John Volken, former CEO of United Furniture Warehouse.
The Welcome Home complex seeks to provide room and board for up to 192 residents in exchange for all of their income, including welfare cheques. In return, residents will be provided with job-skills training and will work in the various retail warehouses that have been built on the property.
While the self-help model is certainly non-conventional, the hope is that the residents will overcome their addictions through abstinence, role modelling, and peer pressure.
We may all agree that there needs to be more opportunities to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders and other recovering addicts into society. But the context on this one is all wrong.
The city intends to ignore its own policy that says that recovery homes should not be sited within 600 metres of joint school/park sites, child-care facilities, or other recovery homes, if there are any complaints from the public and if they are likely to generate negative impacts.
Welcome Home, essentially an over-sized recovery home, will be built within 600 metres of two elementary schools, W.E. Kinvig and Henry Bose, in the heart of the Newton neighbourhood.
The King George Highway corridor in Newton already has a history of prostitution, and is prime territory for dial-a-dopers.
And residents and businesses alike feel the area is already doing its fair share to accommodate those in recovery programs with the area’s methadone-dispensing pharmacies, homeless shelter, and recovery homes, as well as an adult probation office and the Easy Does It Club for recovering alcoholics.
Public opposition to Welcome Home is strong, with almost 900 people signing a petition to oppose the development. Most are worried about the negative impacts such a sizable facility could bring to their already-overburdened neighbourhood, where families are raising young children.
Residents and small businesses do feel the impact. They are unhappy with the high rate of crime in the area, whether it’s having the dumpster in their back lot set on fire, the break-ins to homes and businesses, or threats to their children by local drug dealers.
Many are concerned that a low-security facility housing up to 200 ex-offenders (with an expected drop-out rate of 50 percent within the first 30 days) will simply attract more unsavoury activity.
Their concerns aren’t unfounded. In fact, previous research done in Vancouver suggests that the size of a recovery home ought to be limited to 12 occupants in order to minimize negative impacts to a neighbourhood.
In Vancouver, Volken had previously sought to develop a similar therapeutic community. There, that project did not proceed because of concerns about the size and scale of the project, as well as its financial viability and some unanswered questions about the staff-to-client ratio. The City of Vancouver followed the recommendations of its planning department and a report that noted that smaller facilities are more likely to be successful.
In Surrey’s case, in the report written by the planning and development department for the Welcome Home project, most parties express general support in principle for a long-term facility that provides supported housing to those who are recovering from addiction.
But both the crime prevention office and the RCMP agree that there could be some issues that arise with Welcome Home simply because of its sheer magnitude.
Surrey’s planning and development department recommended that city council refer the application back to staff so that the proposal could be modified in three respects.
The planners say that the scale and number of occupants in the proposed facility should be reduced, that provincial licensing or accreditation with a body like the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities should be obtained, and that the clientele and selection process for occupants should be confirmed.
Despite the planning department’s recommendations, city council voted to take the development application to the next step. They ignored the opportunity to take a step back, to make some fairly common-sense modifications to the proposal that would likely have made the project more amenable to the community.
It’s not the first time Surrey city council has ignored the recommendation of the planning department. Newton residents and businesses owners say the project has been treated as a done deal from the beginning…”
Pretty much sums it up. I’ve read the city’s reports, and I’ve read the recommendations. I’ve also heard from numerous residents that have spoken to counsellors and John Volken, and it seems there may be more to this project down the road. A concerned resident forwarded me the following information, taken from the Provincial government website:
The project was featured in the “Major Projects Inventory – Province of B.C. Economic Development Report June 2005″ – see excerpt from page 46 of the subject report below that I found on Provincial Government website - I cut and pasted the info.
Welcome Home DevelopmentProject ID: 1151
Clearly, the concerns of residents are real and supported by a lack of information and statistics on the success of John Volkens model. Clearly, this project has been on the horizon for some time, despite what some people are saying.
I say no to this project – not now, and not ever.I lived in this neighbourhood for 5 years, and moved to get away from the problems these residents are still having to deal with everyday. The last thing they need is to worry about the 50% of enrollees who drop out in the first thirty days, and are left with nothing out on the sidewalk.
Mr. Volken feels the project should be built in this location because the training store for the addicts is right down the street, the new Price Pro store. I say if he can afford to build a project like this on his own, with no accountability to local or provincial governments, he can build it in a non-residential neighbourhood and transport the “students” from one location to another by vehicle, thus ensuring peace of mind to residents everywhere.
This isn’t a case of NOT IN MY BACKYARD, this is a case of not in ANYONES backyard, and I will be watching to see how Mayor Watts and council deal with this. I would wonder if she would feel secure about this facility being built so near her daughters school, or if Marvin Hunt would like this a block away from his home. What about Barinder Rasode- would she feel this is an acceptable facility next to her house?
This is your last chance to voice your concerns on this project. Here are the details for tonights hearing:
Monday October 5th, 6:30 pm, Surrey City Hall Council Chambers
File # 7907-0129-00 John Volken Foundation Rezoning and Development Permit
Anyone wishing to speak or give a written submission at tonights hearing can register in the lobby at 6:30 pm, where staff will be happy to assist you.
Welcome Home Society Ph: (604) 591-4441 (City of Surrey)
Proposed residence, training centre and furniture outlet to be located at
68th Ave and King George Hwy. Plans may also include a small farm or
ranch property. Project is on hold.
Status: On hold Start: ?
Est. Cost ($ million): 20 Finish: ?
First Entry: Jun 2004 Last Update: Mar 2005